The Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) condemns the detention by Manipur Police of the Editor in Chief, Sadokpam Dhiren, and Executive Editor, Paojel Chaoba, of web portal The Frontier Manipur under extremely stringent provisions of law for publication of an opinion piece titled “Revolutionary Journey in a Mess” authored by M. Joy Luwang. All three have been charged under sections of the Indian Penal Code applicable to sedition and of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act applicable to support for terrorist organisations.
The article in question is largely a critique of militant groups in Manipur, tracing what its author believes are the historical causes of their decline. The existence of such groups in the past, and of their journey, is well known to all in Manipur. The history of Northeast India is replete with examples of leaders of armed insurgent outfits who subsequently became ministers, heads of territorial councils, members of parliament and chief ministers. They were not charged with sedition or terrorism. Arriving at political settlements remains the policy of the Government of India, which is currently engaged in talks, as it has been for years, with leaders of groups from the region that have literally waged war against the state, and continue to discuss separate flags and constitutions. It is therefore odd that mere publication of an OpEd article on some such groups should draw extreme charges upon editors.
There have been many cases of misuse of the most stringent provisions of law against journalists in Manipur in recent years. The most well-known example is that of Kishorchandra Wangkhem, who has been arrested multiple times for posting irreverent comments on Facebook, most recently, about an online altercation between the two wives of a minister, for which he was charged with sedition. We would like to express our concern about the misuse of such Draconian provisions of law. If everything that the current rulers find unpleasant can be charged with sedition, then it is a threat not only to the freedom of speech and expression, but also to the Constitution itself.
Samrat Choudhury Revati Laul
NE Convenor Director