TSA expresses concern over Lalcha Haokip's arrest, says democracy jeopardised
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, January 19 2017: Thadou Students' Association , General Headquarters (TSA-GHQs) has expressed deep concern over the arrest of M Paokholal Haokip alias Lalcha (28), s/o M Limkholet of Molnom village, Churachandpur for expressing his personal views via social networking site Facebook.

Lalcha was arrested by the Cyber Crime Unit of Imphal West police on January 13 following a complaint lodged against him on January 12 by one JN Haoneo Baite (27), s/o (L) N Paokhosei Baite of B Phaicham, Churachandpur.

Haoneo, who is also the general secretary of KSO Churachandpur, alleged that Sony Haokip, who was later on identified as Lalcha, used a photo of one Seiboi as one of his profile pictures and posted messages in Facebook under an account name 'Sony Haokip' as a result of which Seiboi was in trouble for he was thought by KNA/KNO to be the operator of the Facebook account 'Sony Haokip' .

TSA, GHQs said, "The message allegedly posted by Lalcha using his account named 'Sony Haokip' was a mere expression of his personal opinion in some Facebook groups.

Lalcha wrote about his disapproval of what he described as the undue involvement of Soyang Haokip alias PS Haokip, president and supremo of Kuki National Organisation (KNO), a SoO signatory armed group, in support of Korungthang, the sitting Congress MLA of Tengnoupal Assembly Constituency and his (PS Haokip) activities, which in Lalcha's views were against the wishes and interest of Kuki community.

Why was Lalcha single out when there are many other people who have posted similar messages in social media?" .

Contrary to the allegation that Sony uploaded malicious messages in Facebook which created or promoted hatred and misunderstanding among different communities and civil society organisations, none of Lalcha's messages has caused any communal disharmony, violence, hatred or misunderstanding among the people or between different communities or civil society organisations in any manner.

While some of his messages may have caused some petty arguments, others have been thought-provoking, leading to public discourse on some vitally important or critical issues in the community.

While Lalcha has admitted that he was the operator of the Facebook account 'Sony Haokip', he has not used a picture of Seiboi as his profile picture.

He had also not uploaded a picture of Seiboi.

Many Facebook users who are members of various groups where Sony was also a member can testify this, the statement said.

Significantly, it has emerged from a statement of clarification by Vaiphei youth in connection with the arrest of Lalcha that KNA/KNO forced Seiboi's family to file a First Information Report (FIR) in connection with the case.

Vaiphei youth, while strongly resenting the abduction and subsequent torture of Seiboi Baite, a resident of Sareikhong village under Litan police station in Ukhrul district by KNA/KNO in their public statement on 17 January 2017, clarified that Haoneo Baite, at the request of Seiboi's family, lodged an FIR against Sony Haokip following a three day deadline served upon Seiboi's family by KNA/KNO so as to authenticate Seiboi's family's claim that Seiboi was not the user of Sony Haokip Facebook account, failing which Seiboi would be put to death.

The statement added that Seiboi was detained by KNA/KNO at its Sinai camp during which he was thrashed blue and black and placed under death penalty.

This alleged incident should be investigated and necessary action should be taken by the Government authority concerned.

While we strongly condemn the torture of Seiboi Baite by KNA/KNO, we would like to question why police, who are supposed to provide protection and security to the people and ensure that every individual enjoys the right to freedom of expression, arrested a member of the public merely for voicing his opinion against the excesses of a militant leader.

The expressed opinion of Lalcha (Sony) is, in fact, considered by many people to be in public interest and a reflection of public opinion within the community, the statement asserted.

Does a member of the community expressing his opinion and disapproval of undue interference of armed militants in election makes him a criminal? If so, then democracy is dead, it asserted.

It has been alleged that an IPS officer, Inspector General, Law and Order Zone 1 gave a strict instruction to prosecute Lalcha despite the junior police officer's hesitation due to lack of evidence.

This has raised a question as to whether the said IPS officer acted out of personal interest in the case due to hatred towards Lalcha or connection with the militant leader or pressure from political bosses.

The nature of Lalcha's arrest has led us to suspect that the arrest may have been a politically motivated move.

It appears that the arrest was set up by vested interests in collusion with certain people in power in order to suppress the voices of the people and to warn that no one should dare questions their action but silently bow before them and follow their diktats.

This is unacceptable in democracy.

It is purely against article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution which guarantees fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression of opinion and thoughts.

However in this case, democracy has been seriously jeopardised, the statement said.

It is strange why the State police arrested someone merely for speaking his mind but have not arrested murderers and criminals despite many complaints and demands like in the case of the brutal murder of Jamkholal Zou at Moreh in July 2016 and the January 1, 2017 incident of life attempt on KSO leader Jangkholam Guite and his driver Zamchinthang Zou who were shot by the cadres of KNLF/KNO at the cemetery of Kholmun village in Churachandpur, it said.

"Now that the matter is in Court, we believe that justice will be delivered to Lalcha and that he will be able to lead a normal life again without any problem to his career.

We would like to urge the State Government to stop anti-social elements from continuing their activities and to take proactive actions to make the public feel safe and secure.

We would also like to appeal to the State Government to ensure Lacha's safety and transfer him to a place of his choice," TSA-GHQs stated.

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