Shillong: The BJP-backed Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government has effected over 600 hours of mobile internet shutdown in the state since coming to power in 2018, the chief of a newly launched regional political party claimed.

He said the northeastern state has faced withdrawal of internet services five times since the current dispensation took charge.

A total of 603 hours of mobile internet shutdown has been imposed on us since 2018, Avner Pariat, convener and chief of New Dawn, told PTI.

The longest duration was in June 2018 following the clashes that broke out between two groups in IewDuh area.

People had to face 312 hours of internet ban back then as curfew was imposed in the state capital that lasted for many weeks, he said.

The state government, however, justified withdrawal of mobile internet services in areas deemed vulnerable to spread of misinformation.

“Our intention is to curb misinformation over a particular incident based on inputs we receive from the ground Unethical social media usage is curbed,” a senior home department official said.

According to Pariat, such steps are aimed at muzzling free speech.

Access to the internet is a fundamental right, and therefore, bans are nothing but foul tactics carried out by regimes that do not want people to exercise freedom of speech and expression, he said.

Pariat said recent internet bans have caused huge losses for online businesses and disrupted virtual classes of students.

The principal of a reputed school in Shillong said students have been severely affected by the move as they are heavily dependent on stable internet connections for gaining access to classes.

She added that although wired internet services are available, not all parents can afford the same.

A social organisation, Hynniewtrep Integrated Territorial Organisation, slammed the state government for the frequent withdrawal of internet services. The failure of those in power should not result in pain for the masses, HITO president Donbok Dkhar said.

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Meanwhile, wired internet service providers have reason to cheer with overwhelming number of new connection requests.

The average waiting time for our customers has been close to two weeks this year. With unreliable mobile internet and the COVID-19 pandemic, the business is booming, an official of a wired internet service company said.

Among three such service providers in Meghalaya, one was started by Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma. Although he has resigned from the board of directors of the company, the business is still run by the Sangma family.

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