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Northeast fatality in capital again

Akha Salouni

New Delhi, July 21: Six youths beat a man from Manipur to death in Delhi last night after allegedly taunting him racially, scripting a chilling rerun of Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania’s murder six months ago.

Akha Salouni, 29, an ethnic Naga who worked with a Delhi BPO, was beaten with sticks during the 2.15am roadside attack in south Delhi’s Kotla Mubarakpur, police said.

Doctors at AIIMS, who declared him dead on arrival, said he died of severe head, chest and abdominal injuries.

Salouni, a resident of Munirka in south Delhi, and two friends had left a birthday party and were travelling to another friend’s home in Kotla to spend the night, an officer said. One of the victim’s companions was from Manipur and the other from Bihar.

Maivio, the president of the Naga Students Union in Delhi who has spoken to Salouni’s two companions, said the trio had just got off an auto-rickshaw when a white car came to a halt behind them.

“Its occupants hurled racial taunts. Salouni answered back, leading to a quarrel. When they began beating the trio, the two friends managed to escape and called the police emergency number,” Maivio said.

The police have aired a possible “road rage” motive too but an officer unofficially admitted that Salouni’s friends had been discouraged from pursuing the racial angle when the FIR was drawn up.

No explanation has come yet how one auto and one car on a secluded stretch could trigger road rage without reports of any collision. Deputy commissioner (south) B.S. Jaiswal has told reporters that Salouni was attacked “without provocation”.

Maivio claimed the cops took an hour to respond to the distress calls but the police said they arrived in “15-20 minutes” and drove the unconscious victim to AIIMS.

“We have arrested three youths — Shakti, Rajesh and Lokesh — in their mid-20s and are questioning them,” Jaiswal said.

Sources said CCTV footage from a camera outside a shop helped make the arrests.

“Hate crimes are continuing against people from the Northeast,” Maivio rued.

Tania, 19, had died on January 30 after being thrashed by shopkeepers in Lajpat Nagar following a fracas triggered allegedly by their racial taunts. It led to nationwide outrage and the formation of a government panel (which included Maivio) that came out with a range of suggested measures — legal and cultural — just a week ago.

In May, the CBI chargesheeted seven persons including three juveniles in the Tania case, charging them with culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

PTI quoted junior home minister Kiren Rijiju, who is from Arunachal, as saying the attack on Salouni “seems to be well-coordinated and pre-planned”.