Imphal: Manipur journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem, who has been in prison under sedition charges for the last three months, has denied spreading enmity or inciting hatred between groups or communities.
Wangkhem, who is currently lodged at Sajiwa Central Jail in Imphal since September 12, wrote about his incarceration at the hands of the Manipur government, while strongly condemning the sedition charges against him.
“I strongly denounce invoking of sedition charge on such matter in which I did not do or speak anything against the state or the Union. Nor was I trying to create enmity between groups or communities or incite hatred or communal tension,” Wangkhem said in his open letter.
According to reports, police booked Wangkhem, 41, for responding to a viral social media post made by the wife of a high profile BJP politician of the state, in response to a reportedly derogatory comment and ‘racial slur’ about her by a Meitei woman close to her politician husband. The wife belongs to a tribal community of the state.
“As a person who is against any form of discrimination, on September 3, I had posted a Facebook status, in which I raised a question on a racial and communal remark made by the ‘illegal’ wife of an elected representative (now a minister) on social media (Instagram),” Wangkhem said.
In her Facebook post, the politician’s wife identified herself as a woman from the Maram community of the state’s Senapati district and said that she did not know of the whereabouts of her husband, who had abandoned her with two children, in a house built by her in-laws. According to reports, the woman also wrote that she had heard rumours about her husband living with another woman.
On September 3, Wangkhem responded to the said Facebook post of the politician’s wife, asking if the derogatory comment of the “illegal wife,” who belongs to the majority Meitei community, against the “first wife” from the Maram tribal community, would affect the politician’s prospects in the next polls, as his constituency has a considerable number of tribal voters.
Wangkhem said he quoted the remark to “satirically raise the question and expose the racist slur in solidarity and support for the tribal woman out of sympathy.”
Following his post on social media, the Maram Women’s Union issued a formal complaint against Wangkhem. They said the remark was aimed to insult and humiliate tribal women in general and Maram women in particular. An FIR against him was lodged at the Senapati Police Station.
Wangkhem, however, said that the Maram Women’s Union misinterpreted his statement due to a language barrier.
He clarified that his statement on social media was not an attack on the tribal community, but an attempt to expose the racism and make the community in question aware of the racial and communal attack.
Expressing his disappointment, Wangkhem said that the authorities swiftly swung into action and booked him under sections 124A, 153A and 505 of Indian Penal Code and 3(1)(r) SC&ST PoA Act,1989, instead of trying to resolve the misunderstanding amicably.
Wangkhem was earlier arrested in 2018 under the National Security Act (NSA) for allegedly criticising the state and central governments. Wangkhem, who works as an anchor-cum-reporter for local news channel ISTV, had then uploaded an ‘offensive’ video calling Chief Minister N Biren Singh ‘a puppet of Hindutva.’