A Manipur journalist in jail under the National Security Act since last month moved the state’s High Court on Wednesday against a government order to keep him imprisoned for a year, The Imphal Times reported.
In his plea, Kishorechandra Wangkhem’s lawyer Chongtham Victor said none of the grounds for detention cover activities “prejudicial to the security of the state and to the maintenance of public order”, as mentioned in the National Security Act.
Wangkhem was arrested on sedition charges on November 21 for posting a Facebook video critical of Chief Minister N Biren Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A local court let him off on bail, but on November 27, he was detained under the National Security Act. A board set up to decide on such detentions approved a 12-month jail term for him on December 13, The Wire reported.
Victor’s plea described the grounds of detention as vague and said “those so-called grounds merely relate to freedom of speech and expression at best”.
Victor told The Indian Express that the allegations are “unreasonable and unbecoming” of the state government. “Criticism and expressing opinion is not a crime unless it incites violence between communities,” the lawyer said. “Has any crime been committed as a result of his comments? Has there been any violence between communities?”
The journalist’s wife, Ranjita Elangbam, has appealed to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to reconsider the order. His employer, local news channel ISTV, has reportedly sacked him for posting the video, according to The Wire.
In the video he had posted, Wangkhem had lashed out at N Biren Singh, calling him a “puppet of Modi and Hindutva” for organising a function in Manipur on November 19 to mark the birth anniversary of Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi, who he claimed had “nothing to do with Manipur”. “Do you have any sense of Manipuri nationalism?” he asked in the video. “If you don’t, don’t talk rubbish.” On several occasions during the video, Wangkhem used expletives for Modi and Singh. “Come and arrest me,” he said.
On December 3, the Indian Journalists’ Union had condemned his detention and described it as “blatant misuse” of the NSA, NorthEast Now reported. The All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union, however, said it has not spoken about Wangkhem’s detention because of a resolution it had passed in August on matters related to the National Security Act, The Indian Express reported.