Public criticism of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak has landed many in trouble in Manipur. Official records show that police has invoked sections of the Disaster Management Act (DMA) and Indian Penal Code (IPC) to press charges against them, reported The Indian Express.
More than 10 cases, including three relating to sedition, were filed in Imphal West alone. Manipur Police invoked DMA against Yumnam Devjit, who allegedly sent out a voice message requesting people to defy Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for lights-out. Subsequently, Devajit’s father and Manipur Deputy Chief Minister Yumnam Joykumar was stripped of all portfolios.
K. Meghachandra, Imphal West Superintendent of Police, said a case was filed against Devjit "for spreading false information."
“We do not object to criticism but if the comments and opinion have the potential to incite communal hatred or mislead the masses, that is not a good sign. We are very selective while dealing with such cases. The police department does not pick people randomly,” Meghachandra said, adding that in Imphal West, there are over 10 cases under the DMA and at least three cases have sections of sedition.
Two activists of the Youth’s Forum for Protection of Human Rights were charged under sections of the DMA and the IPC after the organisation issued a press note questioning the location of a proposed quarantine facility by the Manipur government. The two activists were released on bonds later.
Similarly, Jotin Meitei Wakambam, a 27-year-old private school teacher, and five others were arrested and booked for sedition, among other charges, after Wakambam, in a Facebook post, said he could not remember the name of his local MLA. They were released on bail after two days.
At least two more persons were questioned for their Facebook posts on the government’s handling of the Covid-19 situation. Both said they apologised and deleted their posts.
These arrests add to the previous list of such instances in Manipur.
In April last year, Kishorchandra Wangkhem (39), walked free after being detained for four-and-a-half months under the National Security Act (NSA) for alleged derogatory comments against the Manipur government and the Chief Minister.
Last December, a woman, who used to upload videos with political comments on her Facebook blog page, was also arrested for posting comments against the state government and the CM.