Two men have spent 45 days in prison in India with no word of their release after saying cow urine and dung are no cure for Covid-19 on social media.
According to Mailonline Erendro Leichombam, an activist, and Kishorechandra Wangkhem, a journalist, refuted claims made by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party that cow excrement can protect against coronavirus.
The men were swiftly dragged from their houses in the state of Manipur and arrested after local BJP party members reported their posts to the police.
Although the pair have been jailed already for 45 days without word of release, India’s National Security Act (NSA) gives the Indian state powers to arrest and detain suspects for up to 12 months without any formal charge or trial.
The men’s Facebook posts criticising the health advice from the BJP party were reportedly sent to the police by BJP members who complained that they ‘deliberately and wilfully insulted and outraged religious feelings and sentiments’ of BJP workers and family members of the deceased.
The questionable health advice was given by Pragya Thakur, a controversial MP from BJP who also claimed that the urine can cure lung infections caused by the virus and stated she drinks the urine daily.
The coronavirus crisis in India has been devastating with the country reaching the grim milestone of over 400,000 deaths last week, but some experts believe the actual case and fatality numbers to be far higher and are putting pressure on the authorities to report the numbers accurately.
Over 30 million people in India have been infected by Coronavirus, with statistics from John Hopkins university stating that less than 5% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated.
Chongtham Victor, the lawyer representing both detainees, said he is challenging the arrests on grounds of the right to free speech.
‘The allegations are completely illogical and totally false,’ Victor told VICE World News.
‘I can’t say how long [Leichombam and Wanghkem] will be in jail.
We’re approaching this case carefully. It’s a very tricky circumstance.’
Leichombam’s Facebook post read: ‘The cure for Corona is not cow dung & cow urine. The cure is science & common sense,’ while Wanghem’s post simply stated that cow dung and urine are not effective cures for COVID-19.
The men made their comments after a local BJP leader died from COVID-19 complications.
Wanghem, who has been arrested three times previously for criticising politicians on social media, was arrested within half an hour of the post going live according to his wife Elangbam.
Mumbai Press Club condemned the journalist’s imprisonment and demanded his release.
Biswajit Singh, Manipur’s Minister of Information and Public Relations said the district authority took action against the two men after ‘finding merit’ in the cases against them.
‘The government has taken note of the entire issue; the file is pending with the chief minister,’ he told The Print.
Earlier this year, Manipur state’s Chief Minister Biren Singh told reporters that freedom of speech and expression, although protected under the Indian Constitution, cannot be misused.
‘In cases where security and public order is violated, the law will automatically take its course,’ he said.
Leichombam’s family has filed a plea at the Supreme Court to challenge the order for his indefinite detention.