TODAY -

UN Special Rapporteur briefed on Freedom of Expression on Kishorechandra's case
- 22nd December 2018 at Bangkok -

HRA *

 Professor David Kaye (UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression) with  Babloo Loitongbam (HRA Executive Director)
Professor David Kaye (UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression) with Babloo Loitongbam (HRA Executive Director)



To,
Professor David Kaye
UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Opinion and Expression
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson
52 rue des Paquis
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland

Subject: Request to issue an urgent appeal to release Mr. Kishorechandra Wangkhem held under National Security Act for criticizing the BJP-government of India

Dear Sir,

Human Rights Alert (HRA), an NGO based in Manipur, India, would like to bring to your kind attention the on going incarceration of journalist Mr. Kishorechandra WANGKHEM (39 years) resident of Keishamthong Moirang Ninthou Leirak, Imphal West District, Manipur, India, for posting a video in his Facebook account criticizing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government.

On 19 November 2018 Mr. Wangkhem, working with the Information Service Television Network (ISTV), posted a video in his personal Facebook account expressing his anger and frustration with the BJP-led government celebrating Rani Jhanshi, which has little to do with the freedom struggle of Manipur [1].

He expressed his indignation toward the Hindutva ideology, which seeks to obliterate the distinct history and identity of Manipur into a monolithic pan-Hindu identity of India. The video in Manipuri language can be seen online. [2]

On 21 November 2018, Kishorechandra was arrested by Manipur police by filing FIR no. 236(11)2018 Imphal Police Station under section 124-A/294 and 500 of Indian Penal Code. The Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal West granted bail to him on the following ground (Extract copy of the order dated 26 November 2018 is attached as Annexure A):

I find the said words, terms and gesture used by the accused and the context in which they are used and the comment made by the accused person cannot be termed seditious to attract offence u/s 124-A IPC. It appears to be mere expression of opinion against public conduct of a public figure in a street language. It does not appear to me to such which is intended to create enmity between different groups of people community, sections etc. nor does it appear to be one which attempts to bring hatred, contempt, dissatisfaction against the government of India or the State. It is mere expression of opinion against the Prime Minster of India and Chief Minster of Manipur, which cannot be equated with an attack to invite people to violence against the Govt. of India or Manipur to topple it.

On 27 November 2018 Kishorechandra was arrested under the National Security Act [3] (NSA) by an order of the District Magistrate of West Imphal. He has been detained under the NSA for a period of 12 months. (Copy of the District Magistrate communicating the round of detention to Mr. Wangkhem under Section 8 of the National Security Act, 1980 is attached as Annexure B)

The National Security Act has been enacted to provide for Preventive Detention separate from the regular criminal procedure in India [4]. The National Security Act 1980 allows the State or Union Government to detain a person on being 'satisfied' that they might act in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations of India with foreign powers, the security of India or maintenance of public order.

The detention under the Act can last a maximum of up to 12 months without the detainee being presented before a court of law [5] . An advisory board has been established under the Act to review the detention. The person detained is not allowed a lawyer to represent them before the advisory board and the proceedings and report of the board are legally confidential [6] . The Advisory Board established under the NSA has also approved the detention of Kishorechandra stating that there is 'sufficient cause' for it.

When students in Manipur try to hold a peaceful candle light protest on 8 December 2018 at Imphal by invoking the prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Indian Penal Code, which is permanently claimed in Imphal. In New Delhi where there is not such prohibitory orders, when the Manipuri students try to stage a protest in front of the Manipuri Bhawan on 16 December 2018, student where randomly picked up from the metro stations even before they could reach the designated protest site and detained [7].

In the larger political context, ever since the right wing BJP took over power in India in 2014 systematic propagations of Hindutva ideology is resulting into constant erosion of civil society space and suppression of fundamental rights and freedoms of the marginalized identity groups, Human Rights Defenders are also systematically attached. With the Parliamentary elections coming up in April 2019 the political struggle to capture power intensifies, more such erosion of the democratic space is a distinct possibility.

Therefore, HRA, humbly request you to kindly consider this case as a critical emblematic case and issue an urgent appeal to the Government of India to release Mr. Kishorechand Wangkhem at the earliest and to check further erosion of the civil society space in the run up to the forthcoming election.

Thanking you in anticipation.

Yours sincerely,
(Babloo Loitongbam)
Executive Director , Human Rights Alert
Kwakeithel Thiyam Leikai
Imphal 795001, Manipur, India
Email : hramanipur@gmail.com

[1] Rani Jhanshi, an Indian queen who fought the British during India's first war of independence in 1857; but her struggle in not so relevant in Manipur context, as it was not a part of British India and the British domination came only after the Ango-Manipur war of 1891.

[2] https://www.facebook.com/thoi.meeteiw/videos/10210789390164513/
https://www.facebook.com/thoi.meeteiw/videos/10210789423325342/

[3] The National Security Act 1980 allows the State/Union Government to detain a person on being 'satisfied' that they might act in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations of India with foreign powers, the security of India or maintenance of public order. The detention under the Act can last upto 12 months without the detainee being presented before a court of law. Section 3 and 13 of the National Security Act 1980 -
https://mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/National_Security_Act1980.pdf

[4] Ordinarily, persons arrested are required to be presented before the magistrate within 24 hours of arrest.

[5] Section 3 and 13 of the National Security Act 1980 -
https://mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/National_Security_Act1980.pdf

[6] Section 11(4) of the National Security Act 1980 -
https://mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/National_Security_Act1980.pdf

[7] IFP link here


* This information was sent to e-pao.net by Human Rights Alert who can be contacted at hramanipur(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This was posted on December 24 2018

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