Manipur officials told to quit social media groups

With bureaucracy and the police split on ethnic lines, government says members of groups that further ‘separatist, anti-national, communal and divisive agendas’ will invite disciplinary action

August 13, 2023 08:01 pm | Updated August 14, 2023 07:58 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Manipur government has sought a compliance report from all departments. File 

The Manipur government has sought a compliance report from all departments. File  | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Amid reports that bureaucracy and the police are split on ethnic lines in Manipur, the State government has asked officials to quit formal and informal groups on social media platforms that further “separatist, anti-national, communal and divisive agendas”.

A compliance report has been sought from all government departments.

The letter sent by T. Ranjit Singh, Commissioner (Home), is part of a status report filed by the Manipur government in Supreme Court on August 1. 

The letter stated, “It has been noticed that many formal and informal groups on social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and other chat groups are engaged in furthering separatist, anti-national, anti-State, anti-social, communal and divisive agendas which cause disturbance in existing peaceful social harmony and law and order situation of the State.”

It added that members of the groups, to push their respective agendas, indulge in spreading false information, hate speech and videos, as well as sharing information which should not be available in public domain.

More than 150 people have been killed in the ethnic violence between Kuki and Meitei communities that erupted on May 3. 

The letter stated that many senior officers are members of the social media groups “inadvertently or by choice” adding that “some government employees are also contributing, sharing and commenting” on blogging and microblogging sites in a manner unbecoming of a government employee.

It warned that being a member of such groups is “in contravention of Rules 5 and 7 or both of All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, and Rules 5, 9, and 11 or all three of Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964”, and such members are liable to face disciplinary action. Similar guidelines were also issued in August 2022.

According to the State government’s status report in the apex court more than 11,000 zero First Information Reports (FIRs) were registered from May 3-July 30. Zero FIRs are registered irrespective of jurisdiction. As people from the tribal Kuki community and the Meitei people feared travelling to hill and valley areas respectively, there has been a surge in the number of zero FIRs. The report said that only 4,766 regular FIRs were filed in police stations and later 10,382 zero FIRs were transferred to the respective jurisdictions. Since there was duplication in many cases, after cleaning of records, it was found that the total number of FIRs stood at 6,621 till July 30. 

A senior government official said that investigation in many cases are stuck, as police officials cannot go to hill or valley areas depending on the community they belong to.

“It is a huge impediment. A large number of policemen are also deployed on law and order duty and to provide protection to farmers as the sowing season is on,” the official said.

The status report confirmed the trend. In 82 cases involving murder, rape, gang rape, and assault or criminal force against women to outrage her modesty, only 16 arrests have been made and statements of 193 witnesses recorded. Similarly in 4,454 cases of arson, looting, and destruction of house property, 14 arrests have been made and 1,366 witness statements recorded. In 46 cases of destruction of places of worship, 10 witnesses have recorded their statements but no arrests made till July 30. 

The apex court in a judgment published on August 7 has asked the State government to scrutinise six other FIRs involving offences against women and transfer them to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) within two weeks.

Also Read | Explained | What is behind Manipur’s widespread unrest?  

The CBI is investigating 11 other cases including the May 4 gang-rape and parading of two women in Thoubal, a video of which went viral in July. The court said, “For the purpose of ensuring proper investigation of the FIRs which are transferred to the CBI, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs shall place at the disposal of the CBI five officers drawn from the States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, and NCT of Delhi at least of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. At least one of these five officers shall be a woman.”

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