The police in Manipur have booked the editors of Frontier Manipur, an online news portal, for sedition and criminal conspiracy over an article that was published on January 8. The editors have also been accused of “supporting a terrorist organisation” under the amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
M Joy Luwang, who wrote the article headlined “Revolutionary journey in a mess”, has also been charged under the same sections. The piece is a critical indictment of Manipur’s many armed groups who have waged an armed secessionist movement since the 1960s. In the article, Luwang accused the groups of “falling prey to the Indian government’s design of breaking their backbones” and not living up to the “revolutionary” ideals they were formed with.
The armed groups, he wrote, were falling for low-hanging fruits. For instance, the celebration of inclusion of Manipuri as one of the scheduled languages of India “by begging” was “one of the saddest memories”, he wrote. “It showed how people hanker after colonial laws.”
Luwang prescribed what he felt were the corrective measures to end factionalism among the groups and to “work with togetherness in the mind”.
In the first information report, the state police have claimed that the author “openly endorsed revolutionary ideologies and activities and expressed shock at the deteriorating character of the armed revolutionaries of Manipur in the last decade”. Luwang has been accused of urging people of the state to become “true revolutionaries” and preaching about how they should behave.
“His article clearly expressed sympathy and support to the ideologies and activities of the armed revolutionary groups and out rightly called the rule of law of the Union government and Centre as colonial law,” the FIR said.
According to the police, the article was an “attempt to bring hatred, contempt and feeling of enmity against rule of law” which could incite the public to “commit an offence against the state thereby posing serious threats of internal security issues”.
While the FIR in the case was registered on Sunday afternoon, a police team, according to Frontier Manipur’s editor-in-chief Sadokpam Dhiren, landed up at the website’s executive editor Paojel Chaoba’s home early in the morning. “They demanded that Chaoba went with them to the police station, but he refused saying that he would go on his own,” Dhiren said.
A lawyer representing Chaoba said that the executive editor went to the police station on Sunday and was allegedly detained. Chaoba continues to be in police custody.
Dhiren also received a call on Sunday evening, summoning him to the police station. Speaking to Scroll.in on his way to the police station, he said, “We received the piece on email and we decided to publish it as it was a balanced analytical article. If anything, it was critical of the armed movement. As a website, we publish critical views of both the government and the armed groups.”
Imphal West Police Superintendent K Meghachandra Singh said the police filed the FIR suo motu “based on the publication of the article”. He, however, said that the identity or the affiliation of the writer of the article was not immediately clear. “The publication is not having any registration also and the editor is not able to provide the particulars of the contributor,” he said.
Singh refused to confirm if Chaoba was under arrest.
The Manipur police have charged several people, including journalists, under sedition in the last few years for their social media posts. The most well-known of these cases are the ones filed against Kishorechandra Wangkhem, who incidentally happens to be associate editor at Frontier Manipur currently.
Wangkhem was charged under the National Security Act and with sedition in 2018 after he posted a Facebook video critical of Manipur Chief Minister Biren Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He spent over four months in jail.
In 2020, Wangkhem was charged with sedition yet again. This time, he spent more than two months in prison.