Social Media Campaign Preceded Lynching in Nagaland, Police Were Silent Spectators to the Crime
The police silently watching the lynching mob; Photo credits :PTI
NEW DELHI: After being a mute onlooker to the mayhem that broke out in Dimapur on March 5 when a lynch mob mercilessly butchered Syed Sarif Uddin Khan, the person accused of a rape (that is presently in question) , the Nagaland police and security personnel have now arrested just 27 persons.
While a mob of several hundred broke into the Central prison on Thursday and ruthlessly killed the man after beating him with sticks and dragging him naked throughout the town, the police have managed to register only four cases under different section of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) ranging from murder (lynching), attempt to murder, rioting, unlawful assembly, etc that too against unstipulated persons involved in the violence.
Nagaland IGP Wabang Jamir said that more arrests were likely to occur soon as the authorities are looking through the images and videos of the incident. He also claimed that investigations were on in full swing.
What is more appalling is the fact that while the poor man was being dragged out of the jail, beaten, paraded and lynched, scores of police personnel were standing there tightlipped, without even attempting to check the mob that was given a completely free hand. The ease with which the mob was able to pull out Khan has given rise to speculation of a ‘conspiracy.’
More details suggest that the social media was used to whip up sentiment with Khan being described, in a campaign on the internet, as a Bangladeshi rapist.
Merely one case has been filed against the officers that too on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Meanwhile, the state of Nagaland is on a virtual lockdown since Saturday and will remain so till 6 pm today, after the authorities blocked the internet, cell phone text and video messaging services.
Since the government has been asserting that rumors are being spread and such hearsay might further incite violence, it has blocked almost all forms of communication- be it social media, WhatsApp, SMS, Mobile Data Internet, Broadband services, etc., in collaboration with different service providers.
Other than this delayed and feeble response, the Nagaland government had also held a Cabinet meeting only a day after the ghastly crime. In the meeting it was decided that people, who had incited, instigated or encouraged the mob would be arrested and prosecuted. A probe panel, headed by retired District and Sessions Judge Veprasa Nyekha was also appointed to inquire into the incident.
T R Zeliang led government had also responded to the lynching by merely suspending few officers, that too on Friday, almost after one day. Senior officials-the Deputy Commissioner, Wezope Kenye, Superintendent of Police Meren Jamir and Senior Superintendent of Jail in-charge of the Central Jail, B. Chuba Phom were suspended.
On the other hand, situation in the neighbouring Assam, which is the home state of the man who was butchered, is soaring with tension. Khan’s body was airlifted to Karimganj last evening after Nagaland authorities handed over his body to the Dimapur Muslim Council. He was later buried in Karimganj’s Bosla village. A huge turnout was reported with former minister and Karimganj (South) MLA Siddeque Ahmed attending, Karimganj Deputy Commissioner Sanjiv Gohain Boruah said.
Protesting against the mob lynching, several rallies and bandhs were organised in Assam.
The bandh on Sunday, called by several political, social and business organisations was total with all shops and market places closed and vehicular traffic remaining off the road, official reports from the districts said. Since it was Sunday, all schools and educational institutions, offices and banks were closed.
Meanwhile in Nagaland, the total curfew has been relaxed in Dimapur town on Monday “in view of the gradual improvement in the law and order situation in Dimapur,” informed an order from DC and District Magistrate of Dimapur, Kesonyu Yhome IAS.
However, prohibitory orders under Sec. 144 CrPC will continue to be imposed with relaxation for business establishments to open from 6:00am to 12:00 noon on March 9 in order to enable the public to purchase essential commodities and domestic consumables. Since the order prohibits the congregation of five or more persons, schools and offices will remain closed.
It is pertinent here to mention what exactly happened on that Thursday. On March 5, a mob of thousands broke into the Central prison in Dimapur where Khan was in judicial custody on charges of rape, dragged him forcefully out of the jail, paraded him naked through the town, hit him with stones, beat him to death and hung his body from a clock tower in the city.
While the murdered undertrials family and many others are questioning the authorities and seeking for justice, the Nagaland IGP has denied any conspiracy in this case.
This mob lynching has raised numerous questions.
To begin with, loud clamorous claims were being made by the people justifying this dastardly act. These were the only voices heard initially, a sign of how communal fires are being stoked in the region by vested interests. These claims have all fallen flat.
The rumour and the talk centred around the allegation that Bangladeshi immigrants like Khan had been luring native girls and raping them. The rape has still to be proved with clips from a CCTV footage being circulated which suggest that the woman had accompanied the man of her own free choice and had not been raped.
Also, it is quite clear now that Khan was a native of Assam’s Karimganj district with his father being in the Indian Air Force and his brothers in the Army.
However, even this fact is being challenged by some Naga groups. Joel Naga, general secretary of the Naga Council, a civil society group said "We resent the Assam government's vote bank politics. Anyone can procure documents for citizenship proof for even 50 rupees, and even manage a job here. We strongly suspect Khan to be an illegal migrant, even if he has a (documentary) proof”.
One of the victim’s brother, Jamal Uddin Khan, in an interview to NDTV pointed out that many of his family members are actually serving in the Indian Army. He further added that the complainant (the girl who filed the complaint) was in fact his brother's wife's cousin.
The sudden unavailability of the medical report is also being questioned.
With such questions being raised and protests growing stronger in Assam, the Assam government is trying to ensure that people from Nagaland residing in Assam do not have to face any problems because of this incident.
The Assam government has asked the Deputy Commissioners, the Superintendents of Police and the Divisional Commissioners to provide security to people from Nagaland living in the State and to also ensure the safety of travellers between the two States.
The steps taken were listed by Rockybul Hussain , the Parliamentary Affairs Minister in the Assembly after the Opposition raised the issue.
Even though the governments of both the states have asked its people to maintain peace and not spread any rumors, the situation in both the states still remain quite tense with Dimapur being at the epicentre.