Two days after the editor of a local daily was allegedly detained in Manipur over his remarks on the state government’s war on drugs, a human rights body has now written to the National Human Rights Commission seeking an impartial probe.
Expressing concern over the detention of Sanaleibak editor Ningombam Hemantakumar, Human Rights Defenders’ Alert-India on Friday said that the journalist was harassed and his house “illegally” searched for his views on a local TV channel.
Hemantakumar had criticised the government during a debate on the war on drugs in the state on ISTV, a local cable TV channel, on Monday. The rights group said three police vehicles were sent to Hemantakumar’s house and he was taken to the Irilbung police station in Imphal on Wednesday morning.
“We are writing to express our concern regarding the harassment, illegal house search, and arbitrary detention of senior journalist Mr Hemantakumar Ningombam by police personnel of Imphal East, Manipur, for expressing his opinion on TV on the state government’s anti-drug policy,” wrote the group.
Ningombam told Newslaundry: “Police swooped down on my house like they were in the midst of a war... They ran up and down my house; searched it. At the police station, I was asked about the two women who could help the government in its war against drugs. I don’t need to tell the police who they are as every policeman knows them.”
However, Imphal East SP Pradip Singh told Newslaundry that such comments affect the morale of police personnel who have been deployed in far-flung areas to destroy poppy cultivation. “The government of Manipur has introduced a policy against drugs. Thousands of police personnel have been deployed for the destruction of poppy cultivation. Our teams are camping far-flung areas for this purpose and continuously working against poppy cultivation. In the midst of this, the journalist has given a statement on a local TV channel, which could affect the morale of police. He talked about witchcraft and sorcery. I think it’s unfair to mention sorcery and witchcraft and women in a public policy decision. So we wanted to know on what basis he made the comment.”
The SP also said that Hemantakumar came to the police station in his own vehicle. “But we also sent our vehicles. Later we had a friendly chat with him. But it’s not correct to call it detention. We had a friendly chat over a cup of tea.”
This friendly chat, Singh said, lasted for around four hours as the “IG was also called” to the meeting.
Criticising alleged police photo-ops, Hemantakumar had said: “Sending police and thrashing poppy with sticks and posting photos will not solve the problem. Kindly look into the matter.”
“The government claims to be sincere in trying to stop poppy plantations in the state. The government has been claiming to uproot poppy plantations completely for some time. I feel that poppy should have been completely eradicated by now but I feel sad that they are not able to do so till now. I want to appeal to the government and people that to eradicate poppy plantations, please bow down to two women with full submission, only two women. Government, please bow down to these women in high positions. That’s it! I won’t take the names. I am not saying that they are responsible. But only imploring that the government should seek their support to solve the problem. Otherwise, the land will be doomed, and ask them to love the land. Hon’ble Chief Minister (N Biren Singh), please use any means, witchcraft or sorcery to take help of these two women. Then, and only then, half the problem will be solved,” he had said.
It’s not clear who the two women he was referring to are.