Former Editor of the Imphal Free Press and present editor of Imphal Review of Arts & Politics (IRAP) Pradip Phanjoubam has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the legality of the government order which prohibits publishing of any book on Manipur without prior sanction of a committee constituted by the state government.
The PIL was filed by the senior journalist on December 19, 2022.
The Manipur High Court had given time to the government till January 23 to file its reply. However, the government did not comply with the order in the second hearing held on January 23.
Instead, the government advocate sought a month’s time to file its reply.
The court disagreed and gave time till February 13, 2023 to the state government to furnish their reply to the PIL.
Prior to filing the PIL, Pradip Phanjoubam had written a letter on October 28, 2022, to Education Minister Th Basantakumar Singh to withdraw the government order of September 13, 2022, requiring book authors to seek prior approval of their work by the government committee before getting their works published.
If any book or published research works leads to a false and demeaning image of Manipur, there are other legal means to seek retribution against publishers, authors and researchers to withdraw their works from the market, or to pay damages, Pradip’s letter said.
As no reply or suitable rectification of the contested order was received, the litigant on the advice of his advocate Junior Luwang went ahead with the decision to file the PIL on December 19, 2022.
The Manipur government issued an order mandating all books on the state’s history, culture, tradition and geography be pre-approved by a committee constituted by the state before they are published.
The 15-member committee is headed by Education Minister Th Basantakumar Singh.
The development came after a book was published by Viva Books Private Limited based on a Ph D thesis authored by Sushil Kumar Sharma, a Brigadier who retired from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
The titled of the book is “The Complexity Called Manipur: Roots, Perceptions & Reality”.
The book claimed that the princely state of Manipur was of only 700 square miles of the valley area at the time of its merger with India. This implied that Manipur’s hill areas, inhabited by Naga, Kuki and other tribes, were never a part of Manipur. The late Brigadier wrote the thesis, was in deputation in the state.
Prior to the government order, the book had stirred up controversy for months with civil society organisations demanding it to be banned and also an apology from the author and his guides which included a retired professor of Manipur University.
The state had also forfeited the book citing grossly misleading and scandalous content which has potential to ignite communal disharmony.