Kishore Chandra Wangkhem, the Manipur-based journalist, and activist Erendro Leichombam were booked again on Monday, a few hours after being granted bail, based on their Facebook posts regarding ‘cow dung and cow urine not being a cure for Covid’ following the death of Bharatiya Janata Party’s state president Saikhom Tikendra Singh of Covid-19.
According to The Telegraph, chief judicial magistrate Y Somorjit Singh said: “On perusal of the materials available before me it is seen that the Facebook post made by the accused, even though it didn’t name any person, seems to indicate that it was directed to the deceased Professor S Tikendra, president of BJP.”
“Cow dung and cow urine didn’t work. I will eat fish tomorrow,” read Wangkhem’s Facebook post while convenor of Peoples Resurgence and Justice Alliance Party Leichombam’s now-deleted post read: “The cure for Corona is not cow dung & cow urine. The cure is science & common sense. Professor ji RIP.”
The Imphal West Police arrested the journalist and the activist under the anti-terror National Security Act (NSA) based on two separate First Information Reports filed by BJP general secretary P Premananda Meitei and vice-president Usham Deben.
They are booked under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between groups, on grounds of religion, race, language, etc.) and 505 (B)(2) of the Indian Penal Code that deals with making a statement with an intent to incite and cause mischief or fear among the public or to any section of the public where any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquillity.
While rejecting their arrest plea on Monday evening, the court of the CJM had granted bail to both the accused on certain conditions which was short-lived.
Based on the powers under NSA, the Imphal West district magistrate T Kirankumar directed that once they were granted bail, both Wangkhem and Leichombam were detained until further orders as he was appeased with the police report. They demanded an alternative to prevent the duo from resuming prejudicial activities risking the security of the state and the maintenance of public order through an alternative measure.
Recently, a video showed men in Ahmedabad bathing in cow dung as they believed it to be a cure against Covid-19, a claim that has been debunked by Indian doctors. Doctors have warned against the belief of cow dung or cow urine being an alternative Covid-19 remedy claiming that “there is no scientific evidence for its effectiveness and that it risks spreading other diseases”.
Their arrest sparked outrage on social media with the Mumbai Press Club and the Peoples Resurgence and Justice Alliance condemning the duo’s arrest and calling it an “arbitrary arrest” while questioning the government’s interest in monitoring social media posts amidst the rising health crisis in the state.
We strongly condemn the arrest of Impal based journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem and demand his immediate release. While expressing his condolences to a BJP leader, he wrote cow urine and dung are not a cure for Covid. @manipurmygov pic.twitter.com/AnY82Ev7qN
— Mumbai Press Club (@mumbaipressclub) May 16, 2021
Leichombam, who has also worked in World Bank and United Nations Development Programme and Wangkhem, who is associated with the Frontline Manipur, was arrested multiple times since 2018.
Based on a Facebook post critical of the BJP and another Facebook post of a video criticising Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Wangkhem was arrested in August and November 2018 respectively and booked under the same draconian NSA.
In yet another instance, Wangkhem was arrested in April 2019 under sedition charges for his statement against the Chief Minister and again detained in Manipur’s Sajiwa Central Jail in September 2020 for his comment on a viral video posted on Facebook by a BJP politician’s wife.
Leichombam was also arrested in May 2018 for allegedly refusing to take down a video he posted on Facebook containing inflammatory speeches and again in July 2020 for another Facebook post featuring newly-elected Rajya Sabha MP Sanajaoba Leishemba and Home Minister Amit Shah.