High court orders release of Manipur journalist

High court orders release of Manipur journalist

The detained journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem with his two daughters. DH photo

The Manipur high court on Monday quashed the order under which journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem was detained under National Security Act (NSA) in November last year for an "offensive" Facebook post against the BJP-led government and Chief Minister N Biren Singh.

The bench of justice Lanusungkum Jamir and justice Kh. Nobin Singh also ordered for his release, while acting on a petition filed by his wife Elangbam Ranjita.

"We have received a copy of the court’s order but it is likely to take another two-three days to complete the formalities for his release from jail,” Ranjita told DH from Imphal. The high court on March 4 had completed hearings of her petition but reserved its judgment.

Wangkhem, 39, a father of two minor daughters and a desk editor at ISTV, an Imphal-based news channel, was first arrested on November 21 on sedition charges for uploading a video on Facebook. In the video, 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 detained again two days later under the NSA and sent to jail.

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. He also challenged the authority of the State to come and arrest him if the authority can do so. Such statements amount to inciting hatred or incite dissatisfaction towards governments established by law,” he said.

Soon after his detention, Kishorechandra had written a letter to the Union ministry of home affairs, saying that he had been detained under NSA for merely criticising the government.

Happy over the court’s order, Ranjita said, “I am still scared as the people in power can do anything to harass us. We live in a democracy but the people in power are playing with the democracy. I have received many calls from unknown numbers, who harassed me mentally."