The common man of India is slowly but steadily losing its freedom of speech. In a recent development, a Manipur journalist was sentenced to a year’s detention under the National Security Act today, nearly a month after he was taken into custody for allegedly targeting the ruling BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a social media post.
Initially, 39-year-old Kishorechandra Wangkhem was detained on November 27 to ‘prevent him from acting in any matter prejudicial to the security of the state and maintenance of public order’, according to the government sources. The apparent reason for his detention was a Facebook video that showed him criticising Chief Minister N Biren Singh as well as PM Modi.
Reportedly, the video had Mr Wangkhem calling CM N Biren Singh a ‘puppet’ of PM Modi and the RSS for organising a function meant to mark the birth anniversary of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi despite the Rajput queen having nothing to do with Manipur. The sources further said that also dared the government to arrest him in the clip.
The journalist said in one of the posts, “Don’t betray, don’t insult the freedom fighters of Manipur,” as reported by news agency Reuters.
Wangkhem’s lawyer, N Victor, told Reuters by telephone, “It is nothing but a blatant abuse of the law and powers of the government.”
Meanwhile, Wangkhem’s family will soon be challenging his 12-month detention, the maximum period under the National Security Act.
Before posting the controversial remarks on Facebook, Wangkhem had reportedly quit his job with the ISTV, a local news channel. Though the Indian Journalists Union and Press Council of India condemned the arrest, he received little support from the All Manipur Working Journalists Union because it felt that ‘a social media rant does not amount to journalism’.
The order from the office of Manipur governor Dr Najma Heptulla stated, “In consonance with the opinion expressed by the Advisory Board and in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 12(1) of the said Act, the Governor of Manipur is pleased to order that the detention of Kishorchandra Wangkhem… is hereby confirmed.”
In the mean time, many social activists have termed the National Security Act as a draconian law with a high possibility of being misused for political purposes.
Notably, India is ranked 138th in the World Press Freedom Index run by Reporters Sans Frontieres – lower than Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Myanmar.