Extension of internet shutdown leaves Manipuris stressed

- June 15, 2023
| By : Muhammad Tahir |

Students from the state living in Delhi are faced with serious problems as they cannot contact their families for money to pay rent and fees

It has been over a month since the internet was banned in Manipur. The effects of the prohibition are being felt thousands of kilometres away in the national capital. Students from the strife-torn state say they have been unable to pay their rent and fees with their parents, back in Manipur, having no access to facilities such as online banking.

The internet ban will be reviewed today by the state government, which had on June 11 extended the suspension of internet till June 15.

Hafiz Abdul Moin, 21, who is preparing for civil services examination and staying on rent in Wazirabad in Delhi for the last 7-8 months, is one of the many Manipuris facing problems.

“I am not able to talk to parents properly. They also cannot transfer money. This is the main problem we are facing. So I am adjusting with my friends. The internet has been shut down [in the state] since May 4. I couldn’t talk to my family on video calls and was unable to see then, so I am a bit upset,” he says.

A PhD student in Central Asia Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), is also facing similar problems.

“The internet has shut down everywhere in Manipur. People who live outside Manipur need their parents or guardians to send money. But guardians who live in rural areas can’t send money. They are extending the ban again and again leaving students, who are preparing for different exams such as NEET, NET-JRF among others, facing problems. They are living in the 21st century but they are facing situations like those in 1960s,” he said.

“They can shut down social media but they should open banks, exam-related portals and other necessary services. These have been shut down too. The students in Manipur have not been able to study properly for over a month. I heard that many students have skipped their exams due to internet shutdown, since they couldn’t get the notification. The government of Manipur also did not do anything about it. In Manipur, people can’t recharge their mobile phones. Without recharge, they are unable to get even incoming calls. Proper information is not coming out,” he added.

Gouding, a 20-year-old, who belongs to Churachandpur district of Manipur, came to Delhi few weeks ago and is living in GTB Nagar, says that his studies in Manipur have come to a standstill.

“My studies have stopped. I am pursuing graduation from Manipur but my college has shut down there and I am not sure if it will open,” said Gouding.

Akil Hatta, a masters’ student at JNU, has the same story to tell.

“It has been over a month (of violence). We borrow money from friends and live in fear that we could be told to return. I am tensed as my exams are also ongoing and my studies have been affected.”

Aldrin Lalrosang, a student of NIT, Manipur, has been living in Delhi with his relatives for over a month.

Lalrosang, a resident of Churachandpur district, tells Patriot, “I managed to get my documents and other necessary things before coming here. Living with relatives, I am not facing so much problems. But due to internet shutting down, my father couldn’t send me money. Two of my uncles from Mizoram sent me 2000 rupees each.”

Muhammad Irfan Gufran, a law student in Delhi said many students are struggling to pay rent besides college fees.

“Almost 40 days have passed. We can’t pay college and university fees and rent to landlords. We are also unable to receive important documents. To survive for the last few months, we had to borrow a lot of money from our friends. Not only me, but many people have been affected due to these problems,” says Gufran.

Timothy, who is the spokesperson of Kuki Students Organisation, apprises Patriot of the efforts taken by his organisation to find out the problems of people of the area.

“Some landlords are cooperative but some are not, so we organised some groups with area representatives. They are tasked with finding out problems of the people. The representatives try to solve it at their levels. If they can’t, they then forward it to executive level. So, by cooperating with each other, the affected people are able to survive,” adds Timothy.

The inability to contact the outside world and send money to children studying elsewhere is just one of the problems.

Businesses have shut down, leaving people like Moin’s father struggling.

“My father works in a shop but now he is unable to go to work. So, they he is facing serious problems without work for the last 38 days,” adds the graduate from Imphal.

Hatta reveals they are recharging their relatives’ mobile phones and paying the bills.

“My relatives in Manipur ask me to recharge their phones and pay the bills. I am already facing financial crisis and surviving through friends’ cooperation but I have to recharge and pay admission fees by borrowing money,” adds Hatta.

Some organisations of Manipuri students in Delhi are helping the needy.

Chongkim, President of Gangte Student Organisation, Delhi, tells Patriot, “In Manipur, people who were working from home are unable to do their necessary work. Without internet, you are cut out from the world. The Manipuri students, who are studying in Delhi and who came to Delhi, are facing many issues because there is no online access.”

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“Because Delhi is congested and rooms are also not available, our organisation is running a relief camp in Dwarka and Mahipalpur, where all related organisations contribute and we help those who (students or other) are needy,” she added.

India’s frequent and arbitrary internet shutdowns hurt its most impoverished, who depend on government social protection programs, according to a fresh report from rights groups Human Rights Watch and Internet Freedom Foundation.

The 82-page report released on Wednesday said that internet shutdowns also make it difficult for rural communities to conduct basic banking and pay utility bills.