Will continue to speak my mind, says Manipur activist Erendro Leichombam released on SC order
GUWAHATI: Manipur political activist Erendro Leichombam, who was released on Monday evening on orders of the Supreme Court, said he will continue to speak his mind irrespective of the consequences. Leichombam was picked up from his house on May 13 for his post on Facebook on the death of BJP’s Manipur unit president S Tikendra Singh due to Covid-19. In his post, Leichombam also stressed that cow urine and dung isn’t a cure for the infection.
“I have been targeted by the state government in the past and am sure it will happen again. But I am not afraid and will express what I think is right. I will continue to raise my voice and speak my mind,” Leichombam told HT, moments after his release from an Imphal jail.
Leichombam also underlined that journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem who was also arrested on May 13 after a post on the state BJP leader’s death, is still behind bars.
“I have mixed feelings following my release as my friend Kishorechandra is still in prison. I would have been happier if he was also out,” Leichombam said.
Leichombam, who has worked with World Bank and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), co-founded Peoples’ Resurgence and Justice Alliance outfit along with activist Irom Sharmila and unsuccessfully contested the 2016 Manipur elections from the Thangmeiband seat.
A bench of justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah had ordered Leichombam’s release on a petition by his father L Raghumani Singh, telling the authorities to ensure his release by 5pm.
“We are of the view that continued detention of the petitioner before this court would amount to violation of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution,” the bench held.
The court directed that Erendro should be released forthwith subject to filing of a personal release bond and a surety of ₹1000.
“We approached the Supreme Court as we felt that there were sufficient grounds to secure Leichombam’s release as the provisions of NSA were incorrectly slapped on him. The SC order has come as a relief,” said Leichombam’s lawyer Victor Chongtham over phone from Imphal after his release.
In July last year, Leichombam was booked for sedition for a Facebook post on Manipur’s titular king, Sanajaoba Leishemba, greeting union home minister Amit Shah after the former’s election to the Rajya Sabha.
“Wangkhem is still behind bars. We have not yet decided on what approach we will take to secure his release. But based on Leichombam’s order we are hopeful that he will also be out soon,” said Chongtham.
Wangkhem, a popular TV journalist, was first arrested in November 2018 for uploading a video on social media which was critical of the government of Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh.
Several charges under IPC that included sedition and National Security Act were slapped against him. He was released in April 2019 after the Manipur high court revoked his detention.
He was again arrested in September 2020 on charges of sedition and promoting enmity between different groups on social media. Wangkhem was released in December 2020 following which joined Frontier Manipur and started hosting a talk show.