Meghalaya for the first time had experienced a two week suspension of mobile internet services from June 1 to June 13, also marking the 100th day of Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government led by National People’s Party (NPP) headed by Conrad Kongkal Sangma. The blocking of internet services which is a common practice in Jammu and Kashmir was part of an attempt of the government to curb the wild spread of hate messages for inciting unrest and communal riots. With the bitter experience of communal conflicts in the past, the district administration does not want to take further risks and deemed it best to impose night curfew, after the five-day clash between riot police and protesters following the assault of three minors at Them Iew Mawlong on May 31.
Both parties had reached a verbal compromise and the police personnel on duty, in spite of knowing about the injuries of the minor, did not take any written statement of the compromise and failed to quell the rumours of the death of the victims on social media which led to protesters grouping in the area and violently attacking the security forces deployed in the area with stones and catapults.
The district authorities also ordered a magisterial inquiry headed by additional district magistrate I Majaw to probe the incident and to identify the rumour mongers inciting violence. A high-level committee was also formed by MDA government to find a permanent solution to the issue of relocation of the Sweeper Colony, inhabited by the Punjabis.
A group of protesters under the banner of “the voice of the people” on June 12, 2018 asked the state government to keep its promise by ensuring unconditional release of all the 68 youth who were arrested during the recent five-day violent protest in the state capital. Earlier on June 5, these protesters met the Chief Minister after they had forcefully entered the premises of the main secretariat.
Elsewhere in Assam, the government as many as 26 people have been arrested under a crackdown launched against misuse of social media within 48 hours, involved in the rumour about presence of some child snatchers was spread through social media by a section of people in and around Dokmoka in Karbi Anglong, another 23 people have been arrested suspected as the mob that lynched to death Nilotpal Das and Abhijit Nath on June 8, 2018 mistook the duo to be child snatchers.
Assam Police was swift in making an arrest of the rumour mongers, whereas, in the case of Meghalaya, the investigation is still on. There were no arrests of any rumor mongers till date under a crackdown launched against misuse of social media, spreading news about the death of one minor which sparked the riots in the city, and some adjoining districts which had heard the false news regarding the victim.
The Cyber Crime Cell of Meghalaya is yet to make any progress in this particular incident of Them Iew Mawlong in which the district administration had warned of legal action against any individual or group for misusing social media in spreading rumours for inciting unrest and communal riots, which have now become rampant in Meghalaya. Many have been victimized from what can be termed as cyber bullying.
The two week long suspension of mobile internet services in East Khasi Hills district has exposed how the people have suffered, as many are using the internet connection for various projects and official work, the unrest is not as bad as that of Jammu and Kashmir, which was needed for the security and safety of the state.
In future, the state of Meghalaya must keep a close surveillance on the use of social media, where almost every mobile phone owner is now given access to the internet services, which is off course is a boon. However a huge section in the society is misusing the services for anti-social activities, including the local pornography, dating sites and of courses incitement which need to curbed, otherwise, the ill effects of social media will surely paralyze the state as it happened in East Khasi Hills district in the May 31 resulted to curfew and riots.