Manipur-based journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem and political activist Erendro Leichombam have been charged with the stringent National Security Act (NSA) and detained for their social media posts following the death of Manipur BJP president Prof Saikhom Tikendra Singh due to Covid-19.
The duo had made separate posts on Facebook extending their condolences on Singh’s death but also noting that cow dung and cow urine could not cure Covid-19. Their posts come amid reports of people using the two materials, considered holy by Hindus, to prevent the virus.
Wangkhem and Leichombam were reportedly arrested on May 13 and sent to police custody till May 16 based on a complaint filed by BJP general secretary P Premananda Meetei and BJP vice-president Usham Deban regarding the Facebook posts.
They were granted bail on Monday, but the government subsequently invoked the NSA.
In an order issued on Monday, Imphal West District Magistrate Th Kirankumar had stated that Wangkhem and Leichombam, who were in police custody, were likely to be “released on bail in the near future” and they might “resume activities which are prejudicial to the security of the state and for maintenance of public order on being released on bail”. Hence, the DM said, “They should be prevented from the commission such prejudicial activities through an alternative preventive measure.”
This is the second time Mr Wangkhem, a vocal journalist in his early 40s, is facing the NSA under The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Manipur. The government had invoked the NSA against the scribe in 2018 after he was detained for a social media post allegedly criticising Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh. His 2018 detention had sparked outrage with journalist bodies dubbing the development as a violation of free speech and demanding the charges be dropped.
Erendro Leichombam, convener of Peoples’ Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA), had spoken up in Wankhem’s support in 2018. Back then, he had told Newsclick, “I will even go to the extent of calling it politics of persecution. This Government is very petty, very vengeful and i can only say that this is a dictatorial government and not a democratic government. They have turned Manipur into a dictatorial state.”