Over the past few months, Elangbam Ranjita’s life has changed. With her husband, journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem, completing 100 days in jail on Thursday after being booked under the stringent National Security Act (NSA) for criticising the Manipur government, for Ranjita, the personal has become political.
“The last 100 days have changed me. I am more aware of what is happening in society. Earlier my focus used to be only my family and my children. Now I also look at human rights issues, and interacting with lawyers and activists,” Ranjita told The Indian Express over phone from Imphal. Of late, her Facebook posts are mostly related to justice for her husband, abuse of the state’s power, and are about protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Ranjita says their two daughters (aged five and one) “miss their papa”. “The younger one cannot express anything but the elder one, Kayra, often asks me how long will it be till papa returns from wherever he is,” she says.
Imphal-based Wangkhem, associated with a cable TV network, was arrested on November 27, 2018 for making derogatory comments against the BJP government in the state and using “abusive” words against Chief Minister N Biren Singh, and was booked under the NSA.
This was not the first time he had been arrested for his social media posts: in August 2018, he had been arrested for alleged communal and inflammatory posts. This was noted by the NSA order issued by the district magistrate of West Imphal , which stated that 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…”
As the outrage over the arrest spread, Congress president Rahul Gandhi wrote a letter to his family on January 2. The letter said, “This is another attempt to use the state machinery to silence dissent. Over the past few months, we have witnessed the BJP government’s design to trample on constitutional rights of the people of Manipur. It is unfortunate that regressive forces continue to unleash violence with impunity, while those who seek accountability from the State are being jailed.”
On Thursday, Wangkhem’s advocate Chongtham Victor said, “The honourable court’s order is ‘reserved’ as of now. It was scheduled on March 4. We have appealed that the arrest is illegal. I met him two weeks back, and he is fine. We all have complete faith in the judicial system.”
When asked for a comment on the journalist’s continued incarceration, Manipur Chief Secretary Dr J Suresh Babu told The Indian Express, “The matter is in the High Court. It is subjudice. Law will take its course.”
Ranita says the family has not approached any minister or politician for mediating Wangkhem’s release. “We want to fight it out legally. We will not resort to any backdoor method. When he was arrested earlier in August 2018, the bail granted was on medical grounds and we did not fight it out legally because we were misguided. And because of that, the tag of ‘repeat offender’ is hounding him.”