Manipuri scribe, activist charged under NSA over FB posts

Authorities in Manipur have charged a journalist and a political activist, who were arrested on May 13 over their Facebook posts reportedly criticising the ruling BJP leaders, under the National Security Act (NSA), officials said on Tuesday.

The officials said that Imphal West District Magistrate Th. Kirankumar late Monday night passed two separate orders charging Wangkhem Wangthpi, 41, (alias Kishorchandra) and Leichombam Erendro, 40, under the stringent Act.

In his orders, the District Magistrate said that as Wangkhem and Leichombam are likely to be released on bail in the near future and would resume activities which are prejudicial to the security of the state and to the maintenance of public order, hence they should be prevented from carrying out such activities through an alternative preventive measures.

The maximum period for which one may be detained under the NSA is 12 months, but the term can be extended if the government finds fresh evidence.

On Monday, the Imphal Chief Judicial Magistrate granted bail to both the persons on the execution of a personal recognisance bond of Rs 50,000 each with “a surety bond of a like amount” on condition the duo would not repeat a “similar offence in future” and be available for interrogation by the investigating officer as and when required.

A police official said that the Imphal-based journalist, Wangthpi and political activist Erendro were arrested on May 13 from their homes on the basis of a complaint filed against them by Manipur state BJP Vice-President Usham Deban party General Secretary P. Premananda Meetei.

The complaint said that Wangkhem and Leichombam posted “offensive comments” referring to the death of state BJP President Saikhom Tikendra Singh, who succumbed to Covid-19 at a hospital in Imphal on May 13.

Referring to Singh’s death, the two men had posted comments in Manipuri saying “cow dung and cow urine do not work”.

Wangkhem and Leichombam had been arrested twice earlier on charges of sedition and for making various posts on social media against the government.

Leichombam is the founder of the People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance, a political party whose candidate in the 2017 Manipur elections included rights activist Irom Sharmila.

He had also unsuccessfully contested the Assembly polls in 2017.

Rights activists and various Manipur-based organisations and elsewhere in the country had then criticised the government for “overreacting”.