Rush to pre-empt lynching backlash

The Centre today sought a report from the Nagaland government on yesterday's lynching of a rape accused in Dimapur amid fears of a backlash in the slain man's home state of Assam.

By Our Bureau
  • Published 7.03.15
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Footwear strewn around near the clock tower in Dimapur on Friday
The protesters gather near the clock tower on Thursday; Telegraph pictures

March 6: The Centre today sought a report from the Nagaland government on yesterday's lynching of a rape accused in Dimapur amid fears of a backlash in the slain man's home state of Assam.

Dimapur deputy commissioner Wezope Kenye and superintendent of police Meren Jamir were suspended this evening over the attack on Syed Farid Khan, 27, a used-car businessman who was dragged out of jail by a mob and beaten to death.

No arrests have been made yet. Nagaland chief minister T.R. Zeliang, facing pressure from the Assam and central governments, promised action against the killers as well as any official found guilty of lapses.

Zeliang, who is in Delhi, told his Assam counterpart Tarun Gogoi that a thorough probe had begun.

Syed Farid Khan

Many in Dimapur alleged a law-and-order breakdown. "The probe will be an eyewash: there is no governance," an elderly citizen said.

Some attributed the lynching to popular frustration with the "faulty" justice delivery system in a state that has seen many rape cases but few convictions in recent years. Last year, an alleged rapist-cum-murderer was lynched in Meluri, 230km from Dimapur.

Even Nagaland home commissioner Sentiyanger Ao today "accepted" a lack of governance in Dimapur.

However, reports that the lynch mob had dubbed Farid an illegal Bangladeshi immigrant, coupled with a demand by many Naga organisations for the expulsion of all "outsiders", seemed to point at - and threatened to fan - longstanding regional tensions.

Farid, who had been living in Dimapur for eight years and married a Naga woman four years ago, had a three-year-old daughter. His family sources at Bosla village in Assam's Karimganj district claimed that extortionists had framed him in the rape case.

Hundreds of protesters had broken into Dimapur Central Jail and dragged out Farid, accused of raping a college girl. They took him 7km away to the base of a clock tower and beat him to death.

Police firing killed one member of the mob, which injured 52 cops and torched 10 vehicles.

Assam alert

Assam was put on alert after protests broke out in Karimganj and Nagaon districts and several minority pockets. The All Assam Minority Students' Union burnt an effigy representing the "Nagaland government" in Nagaon, alleging "a conspiracy against minorities living in that state" and demanding a CBI probe.

Others such as South Karimganj MLA Siddique Ahmed alleged "a ploy to harass and attack the non-Naga community in Dimapur".

Anger against alleged "Bangladeshis" has been reflected in sporadic incidents across the Northeast, including Manipur and Meghalaya.

Delhi is worried about possible reprisals in Assam, where ethnic violence in Bodo areas has been a matter of perpetual concern.

"Fortunately, the situation is in control in Nagaland. We are keeping watch," a North Block source said.

Assam chief minister Gogoi condemned the attack and took up the matter with Union home minister Rajnath Singh as well as Zeliang.

Shops and offices remained closed in Dimapur, Nagaland's commercial capital. Nagas have been advised not to travel through Assam for now.

Family version

Two of Farid's five brothers are in the army, as was their late father. Another brother, Suber Uddin Khan, 20, who too runs a business in Dimapur, reached Bosla last evening. He alleged that Farid was framed.

"The woman who levelled the rape charges was close to his family and on very good terms with Farid's wife. I met her many times at their home," Suber said. "She had even visited Bosla with Farid and his family."

Suber alleged the woman had demanded Rs 2 lakh from Farid but he had refused.

"Accompanied by a few people, the woman took my brother to a hotel on February 23 and forced him to drink. Later, she demanded Rs 2 lakh. When my brother refused, a false rape case was registered the next day."

The police are analysing CCTV footage from the Dimapur hotel.

Suber claimed his brother's wife and daughter had been locked in a room by the mob since yesterday.

"We were in constant touch with them but the connection was lost this morning. We have no clue what is going on there," he said.

Karimganj deputy commissioner Sanjib Gohain Baruah visited the family this evening. He said attempts were on to bring Farid's body from Dimapur.

"The manner in which the man was dragged out of jail and killed brutally by a mob on the streets is highly condemnable," Gogoi said, demanding "stern action".

"At the same time, the crime committed by the accused is equally condemnable. But law should have been allowed to take its own course."