Arrests on charges of ‘incitement’ on social media and Manipur Govt policy

John Phaltual
Contd from prev issue
In this regard, narrow and vested interested individuals and groups always seek an opportunity to create communal hatred among the communities and disturb the friendly coexistence of different communities in the State. Every far-sighted individual and group must condemn any evil campaign which tries to harm communal harmony. Again, Mark's expression regarding Rani Gaidinliu was wrong. The word “freedom fighter” was interpreted as criminal rebellion. Rani Gaidinliu was one of the tribal leaders in Manipur who led a revolt against British rule in India. During the British rule in North East India, there are many tribal groups of different regions who revolted against the Britishers. Their movements were anti-colonial in nature because they were directed against the colonial administration. With the influx of the British with the Christian missionaries into the traditional regions of the tribal many negative effects on the socio-cultural and religious practices were strongly resisted. And Rani Gaidinliu was such a stalwart traditionalist and Nationalist leader. Recognizing his mistakes, Dr. Mark has tendered an apology for mistakenly defaming the good image of the freedom fighter Rani Gaidinliu. He said the post was put up unintentionally and that he did not expect it to provoke serious consequences and hurt the sentiments of the people. He appealed to the general public to accept his sincere apology.
No matter what, the Manipur Government needs to explore the main courses of action focusing on two key axes: to propose a “Social Media Bill” in the Assembly, as well the cooperation between the Manipur Government and social media platforms in removing content and posts labelled as “incitement”. The Government needs to pass a Bill allowing for the removal of hate-incited online content. The Bill should allow a State representative or any other public employee to file a request in Administrative Affairs Court to delete inciting content for constituting a criminal offense. The Court Judge will be allowed to issue an order instructing social networking companies such as FB, Twitter, Google’s Youtube channel, and Whatsapp to remove inflammatory content from the sites if the Judge believes that publishing the content constitutes a criminal offense that may pose an actual threat to the safety and security of a person or the public if not deleted. However, in doing so, the Government should focus that free speech is the bedrock of democracy and the fundamental rights of the people. For fear of harming the freedom of expression and in order to ensure citizens’ right to freely express criticism online, the Government has to make a balance legislative process for preventing incitement online in social media.