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Friday, October 15, 2021

I am happy but fear remains: Wife of Manipuri journalist freed after detention under NSA

Journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem was booked for making derogatory remarks against the N Biren Singh-led state BJP government in a Facebook video last November.

Written by Tora Agarwala |
April 9, 2019 5:21:40 pm
Wangkhem was arrested on November 27. (Source: Facebook)

On Monday morning, while at work, Ranjita Elangbam received the “only news bit of news” she had been waiting to hear for four long months — that her husband Kishorechandra Wangkhem, booked for sedition under the National Security Act (NSA), was finally free. “I did not even know that there was going to be a hearing. It was a special bench who gave the order,” says Elangbam, 38, adding that she was almost speechless when the family advocate first relayed the news over the phone to her.

On Monday, the Manipur High Court revoked the detention of journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem, who was booked for making derogatory remarks against the N Biren Singh-led state BJP government in a Facebook video last November. Ever since Elangbam, a mother of two and an occupational therapist by profession, has been running from pillar to post in the hope to release her husband.

While the family received the order on Monday afternoon, Wangkhem’s actual release might take some time. “It’s a long procedure, filled with bureaucratic protocol — so it might taking a couple of days,” says Elangbam, “But we are hoping he will be out by tomorrow.”

On Tuesday morning, Elangbam visited Wangkhem in Sajiwa Central jail, and said that he looked slightly “off-colour”. “He was even shivering a little. He was of course happy, but maybe he is feeling too overwhelmed to show it,” she says. Just last month Wangkhem had to be taken to the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences because his sugar level dramatically shot up.

Back home, Ranjita’s five-year-old daughther is excited to see her father again. “I told her that Papa is coming. But she said that I had told her the same thing last month during a family wedding and he had not turned up. She was literally going around the venue looking for her father,” says Elangbam.

Wangkhem was arrested on November 27. Under the Act, which empowers the government to arrest without trial, any person potentially detrimental to national security, the 39-year-old journalist was sentenced to 12 -month detention. The incident made national — and even international — news, and many saw it as a move to stifle freedom of expression by the ruling BJP government in the state.

Manipur goes to vote on April 11 and 18 in two phases. “I will be voting on April 18,” says Ranjita, adding “Of course, I keep telling anyone who calls me that I am very happy. I am. But there’s a fear that remains. The people who took him in are still in power. And they are capable of anything.”

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