The Manipur Police on Wednesday briefly detained the editor of an Imphal-based newspaper for his comments about poppy cultivation in the state. Hemantakumar Ningomba, the editor of Sanaleibak, had made the remarks during a panel discussion on a local television channel.

“I had given some opinion on the poppy plantations,” Ningomba told on Thursday. “Two powerful women can help the government in controlling the poppy plantations. I didn’t mention the names but they are related to the SOO groups [some militant outfits under Suspension of Operation] from the hills. Everybody knows it.”

Last month, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had said that Kuki rebel outfits are behind the poppy cultivation in the state.

Ningomba was detained by the police from his home in Imphal East district at 7 am on Wednesday. He was released a few hours later.

The All Manipur Working Journalists Union and the Manipur unit of the Editors’ Guild criticised the police action, saying that the police could have simply asked Ningomba to come for a discussion as no case had been filed against him.

“Hemantakumar is a respected editor and is not an absconder and the manner in which he was picked up for his statement in a panel discussion in a local TV channel affects his dignity and stature in society,” the journalist bodies said in a joint statement.

The journalist told The Indian Express that the officer-in-charge could have called him to the station instead of bringing the personnel to his home and creating a “fear psychosis” in his locality.

“I am not a criminal,” he added. “I had expressed my opinion so that the state’s campaign against drugs could be more effective.”

The statement from the All Manipur Working Journalists Union and Editors’ Guild asked the Biren Singh-led state government to ensure such “unsavoury incidents” do not occur again.

“If such an avoidable incident happens again, the journalist fraternity will not take it lying down and all efforts to safeguard the journalists including legal action will be taken up,” they warned.