Manipur: For Criticising BJP Govt, Journalist Sentenced To Year-Long Jail Term
Kishorechandra Wangkhem, a Manipur journalist was taken into custody last month for making derogatory comments on BJP-led Manipur government. Has been sentenced to 12-month-long detention under the National Security Act (NSA). This is the maximum term of punishment allowed under the act.
On December 11, the advisory board of NSA looked into the allegations brought by the state government against the journalist and on December 13, it was decided by the committee that the journalist should be detained for 12 months, reported The New Indian Express. The 39-year-old journalist was initially detained on November 27 “with a view to prevent him from acting in any matter prejudicial to the security of the state and to the maintenance of public order,” read the government order.
Kishorechandra, an Imphal-based television anchor-reporter was arrested on November 27 for uploading a video on social media where he criticised the BJP-led state government. He also denounced state Chief Minister Biren Singh for making a comparison between Rani of Jhansi’s fight against the British and freedom movement of Manipur, reported The Wire. He lashed out on Singh and called him “puppet of Modi and Hindutva” for organising a function on November 19 commemorating the birth anniversary of Lakshmibai.
He also slammed BJP and RSS in Meitie (language) and reportedly used foul language against RSS while condemning the party’s ideologies. Besides that, he also challenged the state government for arresting him if it could.
Wangkhemcha Wangthoi from Manipur abuses the Chief Minister of Manipur and expresses his anger on the decision of Government of Manipur to commemorate the birth anniversary of Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi. He says that the Rani did nothing for Manipur and should not celebrate the birth anniversary. Have some forgotten the valour of our freedom fighters? Have some failed to realize the fact that they are still Indians and availing tax-payers money through central grants and aids? Please watch the full video and comment your views.#Manipur #CMBirenSingh #BJP
Observers ಅವರಿಂದ ಈ ದಿನದಂದು ಪೋಸ್ಟ್ ಮಾಡಲಾಗಿದೆ ಸೋಮವಾರ, ನವೆಂಬರ್ 19, 2018
Reportedly, he was arrested for sedition charges against him but, he was released on bail when produced before a local court. The court said that the language he used was not foul instead it was “mere expression of opinion against the public conduct of a public figure in a street language.”
However, he was arrested again and detained under NSA and since then, he has been lodged in the central jail located in the outskirts of Manipur. Also, he was fired by ISTV, the news channel he was working in, for uploading the video. Moreover, the editor of the channel also apologised to the Chief Minister.
Wife’s request to reconsider the order
Kishorechandra’s wife Ranjita Elangban has requested the state government to review the order. “We have appealed to the Union Home Ministry to reconsider the order two days ago and are awaiting a response. Hopefully, it should come in a day or two”, she said.
She also said that as per the rules she would be able to meet her husband only after 15 days. Kishorechandra has not met his family since he has been sentenced.
Protest against the detention order
Reportedly, activists from the Manipur Student Association and Association of Manipur Muslim Association of Delhi staged a protest against the detention order in front of Manipur Bhawan in Delhi. Delhi Police arrested 35 students who held the protest.
Reportedly, The Indian Journalists Union and Press Council of India are opposing Kishorechandra’s detention and are demanding his release.
The Logical Indian take
At the core of a strong democracy lies a free press. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right of the people, without which there can be no growth. An independent press is necessary to bring the government to heel, to keep elected officials in check, and to remind them that ultimately, they answer to the people. The arrest of Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha sets a bad precedent. However unsavoury his language may have been, expressing his disapproval is his fundamental right as a citizen of India. With so many countries muzzling their press and keeping journalists on a tight leash, it is imperative we do not set down a path from which there is no return.
Writer Evelyn Beatrice Hall once remarked, “I disapprove of what you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it.” It would bode well for India if her people, no matter their party affiliations, would take the time to truly comprehend the meaning of these words.