Published: 18th February 2019
North Eastern students condemn arrest of Manipuri student leader Thokchom VeeWon for sedition
The student was picked up by the police without a warrant and continues to be held in a secret place which is a cause for concern
Students and activists are demanding the release of Manipuri leader Thokchom VeeWon, who was arrested by the police and allegedly slapped with a sedition case last week. Many student leaders and supporters have taken to social media to protest the arrest of Thokchom and are campaigning for his immediate release.
Thokchom was the Delhi adviser and the former President of the Manipur Students Association. According to his brother, Thokchom Venus, the Delhi police and the Manipuri police picked up Thokchom from his residence in South Delhi where he was living with their sister. They allegedly did not have a warrant. After the sister informed the family, his brother rushed to the police station but could not find him there. He was then informed that the cyber police had picked up Thokchom. His friends and family finally found him at Janakpuri Police Station.
His family was informed that the student leader had been charged with sedition but there was no official charge sheet that was given in their hands.
Many of the students coming out in his support are accusing the police of kidnapping Thokchom. They are also calling out the police for keeping Thokchom's location a secret. Thokchom was supposed to be produced before the Patiala Court House but he did not appear. One of his friends, Ksh Thama, wrote on Facebook that he and other friends had gone to the court that day expecting to meet him, "Some of us went to the Patiala House Court yesterday, where VeeWon was supposed to be produced for his hearing. Neither was he brought there, nor do we have any formal information about why he was arrested or where he is kept. His friends and family are worried for him and want some clarity about what is happening, but the police are not budging," he wrote.
Fighting Together: The student community from Delhi and Manipur have come together to demand answers
Going by the statement of the Faculty Association of Ambedkar University Delhi (AUDFA), where Thokchom had previously studied, the student leader had been secretly produced in Saket court that morning. "Until 10 pm on Saturday, February 16, 2019, there was no confirmation that he was given access to any lawyer nor have we received any details on what he has been charged for. However, in the local ISTV news on Saturday evening, SP of Imphal East had revealed that Veewon was arrested on grounds of making ‘anti-national’ statements on social media and was remanded to four-day custody at Saket PS. It is increasingly evident that the nature of the ‘crime’ lay in his role as a dissenter and activist, none of which come under the purview of penal action," the statement read.
According to his Facebook post, Thokchom was already expecting something on these lines to happen. "Manipur Police Commandoes from both Imphal East and Imphal West just came to my house and threatened my parents to silence me. Searched my room and my house. They also took pictures of my parents and said "Lairik fajana tammaga leiyu haiyu, makhut masa saangdana leiyu haiyu." (Tell him to focus on his studies, not to meddle around other things), he wrote on his Facebook page.
Thokchom had been very vocal about his opposition to the arrest of journalist Kishorechandra Wanghemcha, who was charged under the NSA allegedly for writing against the BJP. He has also been at the forefront of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Delhi. The AUDFA condemned the arrest and called it a blatant violation of rights to dissent and saw the move as a blow to India's claim as a democracy. Several other student organisations came out in support of the Manipuri leader too.