Imphal, Dec 21,
North-East Forum for International Solidarity (NEFIS) while terming the sentencing of Manipur journalist, Kishorechandra Wangkhem to 12-month custody as unfortunate demands the Supreme Court to take up the matter as an urgent Suo Moto case in order to restore the fundamental rights of the journalist. It should be noted that Wangkhem was arrested on November 27 on charges of sedition under the National Security Act (NSA) and sent to jail. Earlier he was granted bail in the case by a CJM court in Imphal (West), which had maintained that the remarks were an “expression of opinion against the Prime Minister of India and Chief Minister of Manipur” and couldn’t be termed as seditious. On December, the approval board of NSA constituted in the case sentenced the journalist to 12-month custody.
While not supporting the indecent language used by the journalist, NEFIS unequivocally stands by his right to freedom of expression. NEFIS considers this as a blatant attack on people’s rights and a clear sign of the use of dictatorial powers by the BJP governments in the state and at the centre. The approval board’s order to sentence Wangkhem to 12-month custody which reportedly said ‘after considering the proximate past activities of the [detainee] and potential danger of his activities which are prejudicial to the security of the state and maintenance of public order and there is apprehension of his continuing to act in [similarly] prejudicial activities, the moment he is released from detention, is further of the opinion that the said person should be detained for the maximum period of 12 months as provided under Section 13 of the said Act’, is unfortunate.
It is very important at this juncture to preserve freedom of expression and right to dissent of the people. NEFIS believes that if the trend continues, no semblance of democracy would be left in the country. Moreover, it is time to repeal the undemocratic NSA Act which is used to curb and repress the voices of the opposition parties/forces. According to the 177th Law Commission Report of 2001 figures for persons arrested under preventive provisions in India including NSA- stands at a whopping 14,57,779 excluding the state of Jammu and Kashmir.