'I have been detained for merely criticising BJP govt'

'I have been detained for merely criticising BJP govt'

Kishorechandra Wangkhem with his family. DH Photo/Sumir Karmakar

Kishorechandra Wangkhem, the Manipur-based journalist who has been detained recently under the National Security Act (NSA) for an "offensive" Facebook post on the BJP-led state government, has told the Centre that the arrest and detention was a violation of his freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution.

In a letter to the Union ministry of home affairs, Wangkhem said he had never acted in any manner prejudicial to the security of the nation and to the maintenance of public order, a possibility cited for his detention under the NSA.

“I have been detained under NSA for merely criticising the government. Such an act on the part of the detaining authority defeats the very object of democratic principles. In a democracy, people have the right to criticise the government. It is a part of the freedom of speech guaranteed by Article 19(1) of the Constitution,” the letter said.

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 sedition charges for uploading a video in 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.

Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla, in an order on December 14 said that the accused should be detained for 12 months, the maximum period allowed under Section 13 of the NSA.

“The district magistrate, Imphal West had issued the detention order on November 27 to thrash me into jail to serve some vested political interest. My alleged posts in the timeline of my Facebook account are all of a responsible bonafide citizen. What I had posted is mere expression of opinion guaranteed by the Article 19(1) of the Constitution,” the letter, which called for quashing his detention under the NSA, said.

Wangkhem’s lawyer, Chongtham Victor told DH on Thursday that they had moved the high court against his detention, and that the court is likely to issue an order on Friday.

The BJP-led government came to power in Manipur in March last year, wresting power from the 15-year-old Congress government. Many in the state, however, said that the BJP was imposing Hindutva ideology, sidelining indigenous culture and belief in the state.

Although the state government has not issued any reaction so far, Manipur University Students’ Union said, “The BJP had promised Acchhe Din for the common people, but the government was now violating basic human rights. Today it happened to Kishorechandra, tomorrow it may happen to any of us unless you choose to be a stooge of the present government."