Growing violence by mobs a worry

Karbi Anglong incident last in a chain of attacks in Assam; efforts on to ensure calm

By SUMIR KARMAKAR in Guwahati
  • Published 13.06.18
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Musician Kishore Giri plays the guitar on the streets of Guwahati on Tuesday, demanding punishment to the culprits involved in the lynchings in Karbi Anglong. Picture by Manash Das

Guwahati: The death of nearly 100 women in "witchhunt" since 2005, to the lynching of a student in Diphu for refusing to pay an auto-rickshaw driver excess fare, and Friday's twin lynching in Karbi Anglong, the growing mob violence in Assam has stunned residents.

"Most such violence has taken place in interior areas inhabited by indigenous people, those who always feel threatened about their ethnic identity, rituals, beliefs and customs. They get very emotional when they think someone might disrupt their comfort zone. In the case of the Karbi Anglong incident, the villagers trusted the rumour about child traffickers and attacked the two youths ," said Deepanjali Medhi, an associate professor of psychiatry, Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.

A mob of nearly 250 people at Panijuri village on Friday evening attacked Nilotpal Das, 29 and Abhijit Nath, 30,hailing from here, following "fake news" spread through WhatsApp messages that they had "lifted" two children from a nearby village.

Jhankar Saikia, a 21-year-old college student and his father were allegedly beaten up by a mob of auto-rickshaw drivers at Diphu, the district headquarters in broad daylight, leading to death of the student.

Karbi Anglong is one of the districts witnessing "witchhunt" attacks in which men and women are held responsible for ailments of villagers and are branded witches before being killed by a mob. Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Kamrup, Sonitpur and Lakhimpur districts, all having indigenous people including those working in tea gardens, witness similar chilling incidents. An Adivasi girl was stripped and beaten up by a mob here at Beltola in November 2007 during a protest.

Apart from the poor socio-economic condition of the villagers, Medhi also blamed militancy, riots and violent agitation that Assam witnessed since 1980s. "When people see others being gunned down, deaths in bomb blasts and often victims not getting justice, the fear of death reduces and they tend to take the law into their own hands for instant justice," she said.

Daniel Langthasa, a social activist in Haflong in Dima Hasao district, termed the growing tendency of people judging themselves quickly and demand for violent revenge instantly as dangerous. "We also want strict punishment against those involved in heinous crimes like rape of a minor but baying for blood is dangerous. In the past few years, we have seen people justifying violence to defend their political leanings, religion or community. They often add fuel to fire," he said, adding in rural areas, rumours are spread without checking if the news is authentic."

"Most of the mob violence is now tried under Indian Penal Code sections but IPC has no mention of lynching. Many get away with heinous crimes because of a lack of a specific law to deal with lynching," Gauhati high court lawyer Seema Bhuyan said.