Manipur: Transgender Activist’s Plea for Peace and PM Modi’s Visit to Manipur Land Her in Jail

Transgender activist Malem Thongam began her hunger strike in Delhi and shifted protest sites thrice as a result of police resistance crackdown. She was arrested on February 24 from Khurai Konsam Leikai YOS Club.
Manipur: Transgender Activist’s Plea for Peace and PM Modi’s Visit to Manipur Land Her in Jail
Santa Khurai/X

New Delhi: Transgender activist Malem Thongam, who staged a fast-unto-death protest initially in the national capital and later continued it in Imphal, was arrested on the 10th day of her agitation and sent to judicial custody.

She began her hunger strike from Delhi University’s North Campus after her attempt to submit a memorandum to the prime minister’s office failed. She then shifted the protest venue to the city’s Jantar Mantar.

Encountering resistance from the Delhi Police, Thongam relocated her demonstration to Manipur Bhawan in the city only to face further challenges and restrictions at every step. Ultimately, she had to return to her home state (Manipur).

Undeterred, upon returning to Manipur on February 22, Thongam resumed her indefinite hunger strike at the Khurai Konsam Leikai YOS Club in Imphal.

She was arrested on the night of February 24, marking an important development in the ongoing saga of her protest for transgender rights and other related issues. 

The arrest took place after Thongam had been persistently advocating for her cause and drawing attention to her demands.

Talking to The Mooknayak, Santa Khurai, a prominent trans rights activist from Manipur, described the ordeals faced by Thongam.

“Thongam has been receiving an outpouring of love and support from the trans community of the state. We used to take rotations to sit with her at the protest site,” she said.

On the afternoon of February 1, according to Khurai, the Imphal police came to the protest site to forcibly evict her (Thongam). “We took and hid her in a nearby room, while confronting the police. But we unfortunately failed to avoid her arrest,” she said.

Khurai said the police forcibly took her to a hospital on the pretext of a health check-up. She stayed there for the night and was later taken for investigation. She was asked if she would be continuing the hunger strike to which she replied in yes.

Subsequently, a first information report (FIR) was registered against her based on a complaint of one Inspector N. Jadumani Singh, officer-in-charge at the Porompat police station. 

Malem Thongam during her interrogation
Malem Thongam during her interrogation Santa Khurai

She has been booked under charges of allegedly attempting to commit suicide and promoting enmity between different communities under sections 309 and 153 A of the Indian Penal Code.

“She is the only child of a single mother and without her, there is no one to look after her family. She has been a part of many social causes, including the welfare of the trans community,” said Khurai.

Today marks the 13th day of her protest. Currently, she is in judicial custody at a women’s jail in Imphal.

Her arrest has created an uproar in the community, with many coming out in the activist’s support and stating that protests are a fundamental right — which should not be taken away from any citizen.

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Rohin Bhatt, a non-binary lawyer practicing at Supreme Court took to X (formally Twitter) to post, “A trans activist who was on a fast unto death, demanding restoration of peace in Manipur has been arrested, sent to judicial custody, and an FIR under sections 309 and 153A of the IPC has been slapped against. The right to protest is not a crime, but a fundamental right.”

Vignesh, a MBBS student who belongs to the Kothi community, responding to a video of Thongam being arrested, said, “Right to protest is a fundamental right.”

The Demands Put Forth by Trans Activist

  1. Swift restoration of peace in Manipur: Thongam's primary demand is for the swift restoration of peace in Manipur.

    The urgency suggests that the situation in the state is critical as a result of violent clashes between Meiti and Kuki communities. The demand emphasizes the need for an immediate intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to quell the bloodied clashes and bring stability to the region.

  2. Prime Minister Modi must visit the conflict-torn state to assess the situation.
    Thongam has urged the prime minister to personally visit the state to assess the situation. This indicates the severity of the conflict and the need for high-level attention and involvement. 

    A visit by Modi could serve multiple purposes such as demonstrating the government’s commitment to resolving the crisis and gaining firsthand information about the ground reality.

  3. Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement

    Thongam's demands extend beyond addressing the immediate violence. She has called for the central government to take action through a transparent manner against the SoO agreement, which was signed between the Union government and Kuki militant groups.

    The agreement is typically a ceasefire or a temporary truce between the government and militant groups to create an environment for negotiations.

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