Wife of Manipur journalist held for dung post seeks his release
The wife of a Manipur journalist who is in detention under the National Security Act since May 17 for a Facebook post criticising the promotion of cow dung and urine as cure for Covid-19 has appealed to the high court chief justice seeking his immediate release.
Elangbam Ranjita, the wife of Kishorchandra Wangkhem, on Thursday emailed a “letter petition” to the Chief Justice of Manipur High Court and “his puisne judges” seeking the release of her husband, citing the Supreme Court verdict on Monday ordering the freeing of political activist Erendro Leichombam, who too had been detained under the NSA on similar charges at the central jail in Sajiwa.
Ranjita’s application mentioned that she had formally requested the Manipur government on Tuesday to release Kishorchandra and also revoke the NSA charges “in the interest of justice”, just as the BJP dispensation had done in Erendro’s case.
Ordering the release of Erendro by 5pm on Monday, Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah of the Supreme Court had observed that the “continued detention of the petitioner” would “amount to a violation of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution”.
A person can be detained for up to 12 months under the NSA.
Both the activist and the journalist were arrested on May 13 by Imphal West police on the basis of separate FIRs filed by BJP general secretary P. Premananda Meitei and vice-president Usham Deben for their Facebook posts following the death of the Manipur BJP president, Prof. Saikhom Tikendra Singh, due to Covid.
Kishorchandra’s post in Meitei language had said: “Cow dung and cow urine didn’t work. Unreasonably argumentative and unpleasant. Tomorrow I will eat fish.”
Erendro’s post in English had said: “The cure for Corona is not cow dung & cow urine. The cure is science & common sense. Professor ji RIP.”
Ranjita’s application said Kishorchandra had “never” acted in any manner “prejudicial” to the security of the State and to the maintenance of public order.
His Facebook post “was a very sincere expression for not agreeing with the unscientific treatment of the said present corona(virus) pandemic where even the scientific tests are being done on an experimental basis”, her application said.
“The said caption was not aimed to hurt the feeling of anyone or any group but rather my (Kishorchandra’s) disagreement with the treatment by using cow dung and cow urine which has no scientific basis,” Ranjita said.
She cited the release of Erendro by the apex court and also her plea to the state government to free her husband as both were detained on similar grounds.
“As such I have approached the concerned home department (chief secretary) of Manipur and the district magistrate… on 21-07-2021 for revoking the NSA slapped against my husband in as much as all the allegations, sections whatsoever are similar to each other,” Ranjita stated, adding there had been no response from the government yet.
Erendro’s father Raghumani Singh had challenged his detention and also sought contempt action against the Imphal West district magistrate, Manipur chief secretary and the director general of police. Singh had cited the April 20 Supreme Court ruling that citizens shall not be slapped with criminal cases or arrested for airing their views on social media on issues related to Covid-19. The court is looking into the compensation appeal.