Manipur journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem, who was jailed for a year in November 2018 under the National Security Act (NSA), has taken seriously ill and is being treated at the government-owned Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JIMS) in Imphal, reports said.
His wife, Ranjita Elangbam told The Wire, "He was brought to JIMS on 20 March. I got to know from Wangkhem's lawyer who was informed by the jail authorities that he was unwell and they would be consulting doctors outside the jail on that day. By the time I reached the hospital with my brother, already his blood test, etc. had been completed and he was at the dietician's cabin." According to the report, she also said that there was tight security at the hospital and she and her brother were not allowed to meet Wangkhem.
On 21 March, Wangkhem's advocate was contacted by the jail authorities and sent a list of medicines that his family needed to send, the report states. It further mentions that on 12 March, when Elangbam had a scheduled meeting with her husband, he complained of blurred vision.
As per Outlook's report, Elangbam said that he looked weak and needs special attention due to his deteriorating health. "I'm worried seeing his health. He needs special care either at home or hospital. I request the authority to provide him with the best health facilities," Elangbam told Outlook adding that his sugar level is very high and that he has also lost weight. "This is very painful," she said.
Wangkhem was arrested on 21 November, 2018 by the Imphal West Police after he uploaded a video on social media criticising the BJP-led state government in Manipur including Chief Minister N Biren Singh. He had uploaded a video on YouTube in which he severely castigated Narendra Modi and the Manipur government in Meitei language for organising a function to commemorate the Rani of Jhansi's fight against the British and connecting it to the freedom movement of Manipur.
A former anchor-reporter with the local news channel, ISTV, Wangkhem is lodged in the Sajiwa Central Jail in Imphal East. Prior to the state government charging him with the draconian law, he was arrested by the Imphal West Police on 21 November under sections 294 and 500 of the IPC besides 124A (sedition). A local court had freed him on bail on 26 November and set aside the charges of sedition against him, but, within 24 hours of his release, he was re-arrested under the NSA and the board set up under the NSA to look into the case approved his one-year jail term in December.
Wangkhem challenged the order in the Manipur High Court, but the court's final order is awaited for which no date has been fixed yet.
Meanwhile, on 3 January, the United Nations' Mandates of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression wrote a letter to the Indian government expressing "serious concern" at his arrest and detention. The letter said, "We are concerned at the criminalization of the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression through the use of the National Security Act, which is a broad and unspecific state security legislation, may have a chilling effect on public debate in India, including on the work of journalists."