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Freed Erendro slams BJP government’s ‘political terrorism’

Erendro walking out of Sajiwa jail on Monday following the Supreme Court order

Taking a jibe at the chief minister N Biren Singh-led Manipur government, Erendro said, “Being a government, it should govern the state, not facebook.”

TFM Desk

Soon after his release on the Supreme Court’s order, political activist Manipur Erendro Leichombam said arbitrary imprisonment of him for more than two months using a law enacted by British to put freedom fighters behind bars during colonial era is very unfortunate and is an action an act of political terrorism.

Erendro was detained under the stringent National Security Act (NSA) over a Facebook post that “cow dung or cow urine will not cure COVID”. He was released after a division bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah earlier on Monday ordered his release on or before 5 pm.

Delivering its ruling that a person cannot be kept in jail even for a day for such an act, Justice Chandrachud said, “, Justice Chandrachud said, “He cannot be kept in jail even for a day. We will order his release today.”

After the release, Erendro maintained that he expresses what the public is feeling through his writings on newspapers and social media, and his opinions in TV debates. “That is why his views are resonating with the people. And the current administration cannot digest this fact,” he added.

He further said that people around the world now acknowledge that the Manipur government is terrorising its people by silencing their voices. This is an act of political terrorism, he added.

Taking a jibe at the chief minister N Biren Singh-led Manipur government, Erendro said, “Being a government, it should govern the state, not facebook.”

Instead of looking after the people amidst this devastating COVID-19 pandemic, they (Manipur government) are hell bent on arresting its citizens, he said. The people will give its verdict on such actions in the 2022 state election, he asserted.

‘Will fight for Kishorchandra Wangkhem’

On TFM associate editor Kishorchandra Wangkhem, who was arrested along with him for a similar facebook post, Erendro said that he will fight for him.

Maintaining that he stood by Kishorchandra when he was arrested last time, Erendro said that now he is released, he will fight at his level best to get his release at the earliest.

Erendro’s parents — L Raghumani and Ch Landhoni — and his brother L Manglemba warmly received Erendro at the Sajiwa Central Jail.

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SC’s release order

Earlier in the day, the SC bench ordered, “Let him (Erendro Leichombam) be released on bail bond of Rs. 1,000 and before 5 pm today. Let this order be communicated to Central Jail Sajiwa, Imphal.”

According to a copy of the order in TFM’s possession, the Supreme Court said “…having prima facie considered the contents of the petition, we are of the view that the continued detention of the petitioner before this Court would amount to a violation of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution. We accordingly direct that the petitioner shall be released forthwith as and by way of an interim direction of this Court, unless he is required to be in custody in any other case, subject to further orders, subject to his filing a personal release bond in the amount of Rs 1000….The respondents shall comply with the order of this Court on or before 5 pm today”.

Erendro and TFM journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem were charged under the stringent Act in May, for Facebook posts they made after the passing away of Manipur BJP president Saikhom Tikendra Singh due to Covid-related complications. They had criticised the saffron party for purportedly promoting cow urine as a cure for the infection.

The activist had written in his post that cow dung and urine were not a cure for the coronavirus and expressed condolences at the death of the BJP leader. “The cure is science and common sense,” the post added.

Leichombam’s father L Raghumani Singh had in June filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging his detention.

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During the proceedings on Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that he would take instructions from the Centre and requested the court to hear the case on Tuesday. But the court insisted on passing an order granting interim relief to Erendro.

“He cannot be kept in jail even for a day,” Justice DY Chandrachud said. “We are of the view that continued detention of the petitioner would be a violation of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21.”

In his petition, Erendro’s father had argued that the Manipur Police invoked NSA only to defeat the bail granted to the activist earlier. Erendro was booked under the Act on May 17, shortly after a local court had granted him bail.

His father Raghumani said that his son had been preventively detained solely to punish him for his criticism of BJP for advocating cow dung and cow urine as cures for Covid-19.

He cited the Supreme Court’s order from April 30, in which it had warned the state governments against stifling the voices of citizens on social media amid the health crisis.

“It is a settled position of law that statements of criticism of politicians or government office bearers, no matter how harsh, do not by themselves amount to a disruption of public order, unless there is clear evidence to show that such statements could lead to incidents (such as rioting) which would disturb public order,” said Erendro’s father. In 2020, Erendro was charged with sedition for his Facebook posts.

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