Arrested scribe tried to incite secessionist idea: CM

GUWAHATI, 26th Dec: Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh alleged that journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem, who was sentenced to one-year imprisonment by a local court, had tried to incite and propagate secessionist idea spearheaded by militant groups.
“With the effort of the governments at the Centre and the state, Manipur is witnessing a decline in insurgency activities. The video uploaded by Kishorechandra had serious intention to undermine the effort of the government to curb insurgency and tried to incite and propagate the secessionist idea spearheaded by the insurgent outfits,” Biren told this correspondent.
He said the video uploaded by Kishorechandra on Facebook insulted the celebration of the Rani of Jhansi, Lakshmibai, as a symbol of unity, integrity, nationalism and sovereignty of India.
“In the video, Kishorechandra says ‘do you have any sense of nationalism in Manipur. Rani Jhansi has nothing to do with Manipur. But do not betray and insult the freedom fighters of Manipur. Do not betray the present freedom struggle of Manipur. Do not insult at least the people of Manipur’, Biren said.
He argued: “Are not these words questioning the unity, integrity, sovereignty and nationalism of India? Or are they mere criticism against me or my party or the Prime Minister? Is taking legal action against those questioning the unity, integrity, sovereignty and nationalism of India thereby inciting secessionist idea not the duty of a government?”
Kishorechandra had uploaded the video on November 19 wherein he used expletives to slam BJP-RSS and the state government. On the day he had uploaded it, local television channel “Information Service TV Network”, where he worked, sacked him.
He had described the CM as a “puppet of Modi and Hindutva”. He was miffed with the state government for organising a function in October to mark the birth anniversary of Lakshmibai. He said she had nothing to do with Manipur’s freedom movement.
Recently, the Manipur High Court sent notices to the state and the Central governments asking them to respond by February 1 against the petition filed by Kishorechandra challenging his detention order under NSA.
Meanwhile, over 60 journalists from India (National Media Forum) and abroad have sought the release of Kishorechandra. They described the slapping of NSA as “arbitrary, high-handed and vindictive”.
In the letter, journalists have called out the invocation of the draconian National Security Act 1980 as "utterly arbitrary, high-handed and vindictive". The letter further states: "This is also evident from the fact that when Kishorechandra was picked up under NSA on November 27, it was actually a day after he had been released by an Imphal court from an attempt to frame him on the charge of sedition over the same videos." It adds that the government "resorted to NSA even after the social media posts, however, intemperate their language, had been found to be posing no threat to public order, let alone national security".
Calling out the government's disproportionate reaction, journalists have urged the chief minister of Manipur, N Biren Singh, to end his "abuse of power". The letter states: "Your disproportionate reactions betray, besides an intolerance to dissent, a disdain for the rule of law and the constitutional balance between free speech and reasonable restrictions. We urge you, therefore, to end this gross abuse of power by dropping all charges against Kishorechandra and withdrawing immediately the action taken against him under NSA."
Earlier, Foundation for Media Professionals had also issued a statement condemning Kishorechandra’s detention.
Objections to the detention of Manipur journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem under the National Security Act (NSA) have reached the high court of Manipur as well as the UN this week, but the court has failed to provide timely relief.
In response to a December 19 petition by the journalist challenging the one-year detention order, the high court has given time till February 1 to Central and the state governments, as well as the Imphal West district magistrate, to file counter-affidavits on the issue. In giving the respondents nearly a month-and-a-half to respond to the petition, the court has failed to give the jailed journalist immediate relief.
In another development, the well-known civil society organisation of the state, Human Rights Alert has written to David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, to issue “an urgent appeal” opposing Kishorechandra’s detention under the draconian law and “to check further erosion of the space occupied by civil society”.
HRA executive director personally briefed Kaye on the issue on the sidelines of a three-day symposium in Bangkok earlier this week before submitting him the letter detailing Kishorechandra’s case.
South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) also wrote to the chief minister expressing concern. SAMDEN not only demanded his immediate release but also sought a clarification on “how his conduct and words, though seem inappropriate, threaten national security.”
-Express News Service

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