A victory for freedom of speech: Manipur journalist

A victory for freedom of speech: Manipur journalist

Kishorechandra Wangkhem with his wife outside Sajiwa jail in Imphal on Wednesday. Photo by V. Thockchom.

 Manipur journalist, Kishorechandra Wangkhem repeatedly waved his fingers symbolising victory as he walked out of the Sajiwa central jail in Imphal on Wednesday afternoon.

The 39-year-old journalist, however, called it a victory against those who tried to curtail the freedom of expression and put him behind bars for 134 days, under the NSA, for merely criticising the BJP government and its policies.

“I am happy to be out. This a victory for our freedom of speech. I want my case to be an example in the fight against the enemy of our freedom of expression. This is a beginning of my fight against the oppression and for the freedom of speech. The government should not try to oppress the voice of people in a democratic country like ours. This is happening across the country, not just in Manipur,” Wangkhem told DH over phone from Imphal, hours after his release from jail.

Wangkhem, a father of two minor daughters and a desk editor at ISTV, an Imphal-based news channel, was first arrested on November 21 on charges of sedition for uploading a video on Facebook, in which he had allegedly called Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh a "puppet of Hindutva" for observing Rani Lakshmibai's (Rani of Jhansi) birth anniversary.

He was released on bail on November 26, but was again detained two days later under the NSA and sent to jail.

His wife, Ranjita Elangbam filed a petition in Manipur high court seeking his release, based on which a division bench on Monday quashed the order of his detention under the NSA.

“It’s a relief that he is back home. I want to thank the judiciary and everyone who stood with us. This has again been proved that truth prevails in our democracy. But I am still worried as those in power can harm us anytime,” Ranjita said.

Kumarjit, Manipur’s advocate general informed the high court that the journalist was detained under NSA for his activity which was prejudicial to the security of the state and maintenance of public order. “On November 19, 2018, he had posted four video clips in which he used unconstitutional and invective words and blamed the existing government, both at the Centre and the state, for their policy under the supervision of Prime Minister of India in connivance with RSS.”

He told the court that the petitioner had called Chief Minister N Biren Singh a puppet in the hands of Prime Minister and that his celebration of Rani Lakshmibai’s birth anniversary was a total nuisance and the same was an insult to the freedom fighters of Manipur.

“This clearly indicates that he spoke and acted in support of the militant/terrorist organisations presently operating in Manipur, thereby showing his seditious attitude and leaning towards the unlawful organisations.”