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Podcast | Why Was a Manipuri Journalist Arrested Under NSA?

What’s the fastest way to get arrested? Criticising the BJP on social media got it done for Kishorechandra Wangkhem

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What is the quickest way for a journalist to land up in custody? For Manipur journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem, criticising the Manipur chief minister, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP on social media did it.

On this edition of The Big Story, we’re talking about Kishorechandra Wangkhem who has been booked under the National Security Act (NSA). The television journalist from Manipur who used to work for ISTV had uploaded clips calling Manipur CM Biren Singh a “puppet” of the central government.

Basically, he criticised the Manipur government for observing the birth anniversary of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, who is in no way connected to the history of the state. Two things to note about his video clips are:

  • He used expletives.
  • He did not use a journalistic platform.

We did some research on Wangkhem and found out that he was arrested in August for similar reasons; criticising the BJP using expletives.

And this time too, Wangkhem was arrested on 21 November for sedition and attempts to create enmity between groups, but was released on bail. The magistrate found his statements to be “expressions of opinion against the PM and the CM which cannot be equated with an attack to invite people to violence against the government of India or Manipur to topple it.”

Matlab, granted, he used derogatory words to criticise the government, but that still doesn't amount to inciting violence. Ho gaya na problem solved? Nope.

A day after he got bail, Wangkhem was arrested AGAIN, this time under the National Security Act. On what basis? The belief that, upon his release, Wangkhem would partake in activities prejudicial to the state’s interests.

On 13 December, an advisory board approved a term of 12 months’ imprisonment for Wangkhem.

When news of his detainment came out, he received support from the Indian Journalists Union and the Press Council of India, who condemned the arrest, but he got little to no support from the All Manipur Working Journalists Union, who called his videos a “rant” and not real journalism.

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We also spoke to the Editor’s Guild for a statement, but we were told that they were still getting all the details of the case. In fact, most of the journalists we contacted didn’t want to comment because of the derogatory comments Wangkhem used.

Here’s a line from the AMWJU’s statement:

“AMWJU had been compelled to take this resolution as a few so-called journalists including Kishorchand himself were blatantly misusing the social media by posting abusive and offensive comments against some people, political parties, organisations and their leaders in a very personal manner in the name of freedom of press and what not, that needed to be controlled and would create a lot of disturbances, if left unchecked.”

YET, the question is, do his derogatory comments merit booking him under NSA? Are derogatory comments towards the ruling party a threat to national security?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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