2 booked under NSA in Manipur for FB posts that cow dung won’t cure Covid-19
The Manipur police have booked a journalist and an activist under the National Security Act (NSA), which provides for detention for up to a year without trial, days after they were arrested for saying cow urine and dung do not cure Covid-19 in their Facebook posts related to ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state chief S Tikendra Singh’s death of the disease.
Victor Chongtham, the lawyer of Kishorechandra Wangkhem, the journalist, and activist Erendro Leichombam, said the NSA was slapped on his clients before they could complete the formalities of their release after an Imphal court on Monday granted them bail. “We had deposited their bond amounts and were awaiting a printed copy of the court’s order granting them bail when the police decided to detain both under NSA,” said Chongtham. He added some BJP leaders have filed cases against his clients, who have earlier faced sedition charges and were arrested on Thursday for writing the posts.
Chongtham said they are sending representations to the Centre as well as the state government seeking their release. “If that fails to elicit the desired outcome, we will approach the Manipur high court.”
Chongtham said the police assaulted Wangkhem during his arrest and also hit Leichombam’s mother on her chest while taking him into custody.
Elangbam Ranjita, Wankhem’s wife, said when the police arrived at their home on Thursday around 9:00 pm, her husband told them he is ready to answer their queries or accompany them. “But they assaulted him by pulling his shirt and tore it off,” said Ranjita.
Imphal West district police superintendent K Meghachandra Singh said the two were arrested on Thursday under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)’s Section 153 A for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc and acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. He added the NSA was slapped on them on Monday and they were produced in a court through video conferencing and remanded in judicial custody for four days. “Both are in Imphal jail.”
NSA is slapped to prevent anyone “from acting in a manner prejudicial to the security of the State, maintenance of public order and maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community”. Section 153 A provides for maximum five-year imprisonment.
Wangkhem, a popular TV journalist, was first arrested in November 2018 for uploading a video on social media criticising Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh’s government. He was booked for sedition and NSA was also slapped on him before he was released in April 2019. The high court quashed the sedition charges against him. He was again arrested in September 2020 on the same charges and for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups on social media. Wangkhem was released in December 2020 and joined Frontier Manipur and started hosting a talk show.
In July last year, Leichombam, who has worked with World Bank and United Nations Development Programme, was booked for sedition for a Facebook post on titular Manipur king Sanajaoba Leishemba greetings to Union home minister Amit Shah after the former’s election to the Rajya Sabha. Leichombam was later released on bail.