Fight is for secularism, freedom of speech: Journalist

Fight is for secularism, freedom of speech: Journalist

Kishorechandra Wangkhem after his release from jail.

Video posts of Manipur journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem criticising the BJP-led government on Facebook last November, first invited a sedition charge and then he was branded “a supporter of militants”, later he was detained under the National Security Act (NSA). The Manipur High Court, however, quashed his detention under the NSA and he was released from jail on April 10.

Talking to DH's Sumir Karmakar over phone from Imphal on Sunday, the 39-year-old TV journalist said that it was his responsibility to raise voice against the “imposition” of Hindutva ideology by the BJP government on religious minorities in Manipur to protect secularism and added that he would continue to do so.

You fell ill inside the jail. Are you fine now?

I am recovering slowly but still under treatment. My sugar level is still not normal and I am still weak.

You said that you were jailed for merely criticising the BJP government. But why are you so angry with the BJP?

The BJP is a party that propagates one nation, one religion (Hindu) ideology. I am against it because the religious minorities feel threatened by them. I belong to Sanamahi, a religious minority which is older than Hinduism in Manipur. There are 30-odd similar ethnic minority groups in Manipur and they all are scared of the BJP’s game plan of a 'Hindurashtra'. The BJP is trying to impose this majoritarian ideology, which is a threat to our ethnic and religious identity. So as a journalist, I thought I should raise my voice against this.

What action of the government makes you threatened?

Ever since the BJP came to power, they have tried to distort our history. For example, Chief Minister N Biren Singh went to Gujarat and said that Lord Krishna had married a girl from Northeast, which is not true. People belonging to the ruling party threaten those who raise voice on the social media against such distortions. They have tried to curtail our freedom of speech just because we pointed out the mistake and tried to expose their game plan.

But you criticised the government for celebrating birth anniversary of Laxmibai, the Rani of Jhansi. Why are you against the celebration of a freedom fighter?

What I tried to say is that when Rani of Jhansi had fought against the British in the Sepoy Mutiny (1857), Manipur was a princely and independent state. The British could not annexe Manipur until 1891, because of the freedom fighters from Manipur such as Bir Tikendrajit, Hijam Irabot and Rani Gaidinliu. But the BJP-government has not celebrated their valour. They are celebrating Rani of Jhansi because it is part of their same Hindutva game plan.

How has the public response been so far about your detention under the NSA?

The support I have received so far is overwhelming. As a journalist, I will keep working against such “imposition.” At the same time I will do activism against black laws like the NSA and the sedition law. How can the world’s largest democracy jail its own citizen under a black law? I will be more vocal against such black laws.

Will your detention under the NSA have any impact on the April 18 election in your constituency (Inner Manipur Lok Sabha constituency)?

I can’t comment on what others will do. But people are really not happy with the way the BJP-government is trying to curtail people’s freedom of speech. But I will look for a candidate, who can protect our freedom of speech and secularism.