Imphal-based journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem has been arrested under the National Security Act (NSA) for uploading controversial videos criticising the BJP-led Manipur government for observing Rani of Jhansi’s birth anniversary and allegedly using abusive words against the CM.
Official documents accessed by The Indian Express confirmed that Wangkhem was arrested on November 27 under the NSA and sent to jail, less than 24 hours after he was granted bail in the case by a CJM court in West Imphal, which had maintained that the remarks were an “expression of opinion against the Prime Minister of India and Chief Minster of Manipur” and couldn’t be termed as seditious.
In multiple video clips, uploaded on November 19 in both English and Meitei, Wangkhem purportedly said: “I am saddened and shocked to learn that the present government of Manipur is observing birth anniversary of Rani of Jhansi. And the chief minister himself claims that the BJP government is observing this for her role in unification of India or her role in the freedom struggle. But…she has nothing to do with Manipur. You are observing this because the Centre asked you to do this,” the journalist allegedly said.
Calling CM N Biren Singh a “puppet” of the Centre, he said, “…don’t betray, don’t insult the freedom fighter of Manipur. Don’t insult the present freedom struggler of Manipur. Don’t insult the people of Manipur. Therefore, I am saying this again, you, CM, come and arrest me again, but I will still say you… are a puppet of Hindutva.” He also used abusive words against the CM.
Wangkhem’s wife Elangbam Ranjita told The Indian Express that the journalist was first arrested on November 20. “Then, he was given bail on November 26 against a bond of Rs 70,000. Next day, he was called to the police station. Five to six policemen in civil dress came to our house, and took him away. Only yesterday (Thursday) we came to know about the arrest under the NSA,” she said. On Friday, Ranjita took part in a demonstration demanding immediate release of Wangkhem in Imphal.
While granting bail to Wangkhem, the CJM West Imphal had stated that the comments made in the video did not appear to “create enmity between different groups of people, community, sections” nor did it appear to be attempting to bring “hatred, contempt, dissatisfaction” against the government of India or that of the state.
“It is mere expression of opinion against the Prime Minister of India and Chief Minster of Manipur, which cannot be equated with an attack to invite people to violence against the government of India or Manipur to topple it,” the order said, while adding that the speech couldn’t be termed as seditious.
However, a new order, issued by the district magistrate of West Imphal on November 27, said Wangkhem should be detained under Section 3(2) of the NSA, 1980 until further orders.
The DM’s order said, Wangkhem “would resume activities which are prejudicial to the security of the state and to the maintain of public order, as he is a habitual offender invoking offences that intends to cause fear or alarm to the public…he should be prevented from commission of such prejudicial activities through an alternative preventive measure”.
In August this year, Wangkhem was arrested for writing allegedly communally inflammatory posts on social media.
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