Manipur: Jailed Journalist Kishore Chandra Wangkhem Granted Bail

The journalist has been in and out of jail ever since he took on the BJP in social media posts that he made in 2018. He and his family accuse the Biren Singh government of a vendetta.

New Delhi: Imphal-based journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem, who was arrested by the Manipur Police this past September on charges of sedition and promoting enmity between different groups through a social media post, has been granted bail by a local court.

Wangkhem, who had been facing the BJP-led government’s ire ever since he criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the RSS and state chief minister N. Biren Singh on social media in 2018, has been in and out of jail on charges of sedition and under the draconian National Security Act (NSA).

The Manipur high court, in April 2019, had quashed the charges against the journalist and released him from jail.

This time around, on September 29, the state police yet again took him into custody under a fresh charge of sedition for responding to a viral social media post made by the wife of a high profile BJP politician of Manipur. The response of the wife, who belongs to the state’s tribal community, was a retort to a reportedly derogatory comment and ‘racial slur’ aired against her by a non-tribal Meitei woman close to her husband.

The wife’s reply, reportedly stating that she had heard that her husband is living with a woman, also said, “Our two children have been missing you (the politician) and asking where you are”. She asked her husband to “tame the mistress” who has been using derogatory words on social media to refer to her.

Some days later, Kishorechandra, responding to the viral post on Facebook, asked whether the comment made by a woman from the majority Meitei community against the “first wife” of the politician from the Maram community would affect the politician’s prospects in the next elections, as his constituency has a considerable number of tribal voters.

Kishorechandra’s wife, after his arrest by state police on September 29, had told The Wire, “While the police ignored the derogatory comment made by a non-tribal woman against a tribal woman, it took cognisance of Kishorechandra’s post.” She accused the ruling party of having a vendetta against her husband.

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Police said it had taken action against the journalist on the basis of an FIR filed at the Senapati police station by Maram Women’s Union, complaining that the journalist had aired “communally derogatory remark against the Maram tribe.”

Though the Senapati local court had granted Kishorechandra anticipatory bail till September 28, pending a report to be filed by the police on the matter, before responding to the court, on September 28 early morning, a police team arrived at his residence and took him into custody. He was since kept at the Senapati jail.

On December 8, the special judge, Senapati, granted him bail. A day later, he reached his home in Imphal. The journalist, who became a father barely a month before he was arrested, immediately uploaded a photograph of himself with his child.

Speaking to The Wire about his arrest, he said, “I did not speak or do anything against the state or the Union and yet sedition charge was brought against me. This charge has proved to be a selective target once again [by the ruling dispensation] to silence me.”