In yet another example of the excessive and censorious use of sedition, Manipur police have arrested the executive editor of The Frontier Manipur (TFM) Paojel Chaoba for publishing an article that was actually critical of revolutionary movements in the state.

Screenshot of article in The Frontier Manipur

Sedition, which comes under Sec 124 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), is a colonial-era legacy and attracts a punishment of upto life imprisonment. Over the last ten years, it has increasingly been used to harass journalists, human rights activists, students and citizens who may have merely liked a somewhat critical or satirical social media post on some political event or issue. Despite a reading down of the section by the Supreme Court in the Kedarnath case in 1962, it continues to be used with impunity.

In this latest case, apart from the arrest of Paojel Chaoba, police have also called the Editor of TFM Sadokpam Dhiren for questioning at Singjamei police station. He was still in the police station till late yesterday.

The article, entitled ‘Revolutionary journey in a mess’ , by M Joy Luwang, was published on Jan 8, 2021 and is a trenchant critique of the mistakes committed by various revolutionary groups who ‘focused on useless activities like dividing the innocent people into various groups and ethnicities’. It calls upon ‘real revolutionaries’ to work towards freedom of the public and unity. Hardly even a hint of the imminent threat to violence that the read down Kedarnath judgement had said would come under the purview of sedition.

TFM is a news site which started in August 2020 with the objective of making citizens aware of happenings around them and focuses on social, political and economic issues of Manipur and neighbouring states. Its associate editor, Kishorechandra Wangkhem, was arrested on Sept 29 on charges of sedition for responding to an alleged racially abusive post on a social media by the wife of a high profile BJP politician of Manipur. He was finally released on bail only on December 8.

Here is a detailed TFM report on the latest incident:

Manipur police on Sunday arrested senior journalist and executive editor of news portal The Frontier Manipur Aribam Dhananjoy, popularly known as Paojel Chaoba, in connection publication of an article written by one M Joy Luwang in the news portal.

According to FIR filed by OC Singamei Police station Inspector P Sanjoy Singh, the article “is likely to cause fear or alarm to the public inducing them to commit an offence against the state thereby posing serious threat of internal security issues”.

Editor of TFM Sadokpam Dhiren was also called for questioning at Singjamei police station. He was in police station till the report was filed.

“A suo motu case under FIR No 11(1)2021 SJM PS U/S 124- A/120-B/505(b)/34-IPC & 39 UA (P) Act has been registered against M Joy Luwang (the author of the article) and “editors” of the Facebook page of online web portal “The Frontier Manipur” for investigation,” the FIR said.

According to sources, police came to Paojel Chaoba’s residence in Thangmeiband and asked him to come to police station. As a law abiding citizen, he went to the police station to en. However, he was arrested for the article published in the news portal, which reads more like a research paper on why armed movements in Manipur had reached their nadir in the last on decade.

However, according to the FIR, in the article titled “Revolutionary Journey in a mess”, the author openly “endorsed” revolutionary ideologies and activities and expressed shock and dismay at the deteriorating character of the armed revolutionary leaders of Manipur in the recent decade. He called out to the people of Manipur to become “true revolutionaries” and preached about behaviours and characters that a true revolutionary should possess,” it said.

The FIR further said, “the article clearly expressed sympathy and support to the ideologies and activities of armed revolutionary groups and out rightly called the Rule of Law of the Union and state government as Colonial Law thereby attempting to bring hatred, contempt and feeling of enmity against Rule of Law and the Government which is likely to cause fear or alarm to the public inducing them to commit an offence against the state thereby posing serious threat of internal security issues.”

Meanwhile, Paochel Chaoba’s wife A Sanahanbi Devi submitted a letter to the president of All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union (AMWJU) apprising the union of his detention and urged it to do the needful.
Sources in AMWJU said its executives would meet on Monday to discuss the issue.

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