Despite Bail, Manipur Journalist Who Criticised The Govt Detained Under National Security Act
Kishorechandra Wangkhemcha, a journalist from Manipur, has been detained on November 27 under the National Security Act, after posting a video on Facebook, in which he was seen criticising Chief Minister of Manipur N Biren Singh and Prime Minister Modi. Several people staged a sit-in protest in Imphal against his detention.
Wangkhemcha, who worked for a local cable television channel, was initially arrested for his opinionated video on November 21st, reports The Economic Times. The video, which went viral, piles a tirade of abuse on N Biren Singh, and in extension, the Central Government. Mr. Wangkhemcha was seen to be voicing his protest against a commemorative rally for Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, stating that her contribution was unrelated with his home state. “She had nothing to do with Manipur,” he said in the video and also branded the Chief Minister as a “puppet of Modi and Hindutva.” Wangkhemcha was charged with “sedition, inciting hatred and defamation”.
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
(The alleged video in question)
Detained as an alternative preventive measure
Upon review by the chief magistrate of Imphal (West), the charges of sedition against Mr. Wangkhemcha were dropped, and bail was granted for the other two charges, states Scroll.in. Though court acknowledged that the journalist had “transgressed beyond decent human conduct”, it also asserted that the government should be more tolerant towards criticism from the people.
Despite being granted bail, the journalist was subsequently detained under the National Security Act 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.” The provisions of the National Security Act not only allow for the presumptive detainment of individuals deemed to be a threat to national security, it also denies them access to a lawyer or a hearing before a court of law.
The silence is disappointing
Surprisingly, despite protest from the citizens, the arrest has largely been met with silence among the journalistic community in the state. Brozendra Ningomba, President of the All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union, spoke of a recently passed resolution that agreed not to support an individual arrested for airing provocative opinions on social media. A dearth of reporting on the case was lamented by Pradip Phanjoubam, editor of the Imphal Free Press, an English-language daily.
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.