Nagaland mob lynching: 18 arrested, internet and SMS services restricted

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Guwahati/New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 08, 2015 15:38 IST

The Nagaland government restricted internet and SMS services as tension prevailed in the state after a mob comprising hundreds lynched a rape accused in Dimapur town earlier this week.

Mobile calls were restored by Sunday morning but SMS and internet services will remain blocked until further orders from Nagaland police. Prohibitory orders on the assembly of persons were clamped in the state.

At least eighteen persons have been arrested in connection with the lynching incident that has triggered a wave of protests across Nagaland and neighbouring Assam. Police said the arrests were made after going through the mobile video clippings of the incident.

"So far we have arrested 18 people for rioting and unlawful assembly," the inspector general of police, Wabang Jamir, said.

"We are now verifying if besides being part of the mob they were also directly involved in the lynching," Jamir said by phone from Dimapur city.

"We have already identified many more people (for arrest) from videos and photos (of the incident on social media)," he added.

Protests against the lynching incident were reported on Sunday from different parts of the state, including Karimganj, and a strict vigil was being maintained to prevent any untoward incident.

The Assam-Nagaland border remained tense at night. A 30-minuted gunfight took place between Assam Police and suspected Naga militants at Gahori Kata in Sivasagar district of Assam.

Sivasagar SP Bibekananda Das said the involvement of Naga militant outfits could not be ruled out. Police recovered a magazine of AK-47 rifle, 30 rounds of live ammunitions and some empty cartridges from the spot.

The last rites of rape accused Syed Farid Khan was on Sunday in his hometown of Karimganj in Assam. Hundreds including political leaders of three south Assam districts turned up at his funeral.

Khan, a 35-year-old -- accused of raping a woman multiple times and arrested on February 24, was dragged out of prison in Dimapur by a mob before being beaten to death and strung up on a clock tower last Thursday.

Circumstances surrounding the case grew hazier with Khan's brother Jamaluddin alleging medical reports hadn't confirmed rape, a claim repeated by the Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi to TV reporters.

Home ministry sources said the woman who had levelled the rape charges knew Khan well. "The girl and her associates had demanded Rs 2 lakh from him," Khan's younger brother Suberuddin said. The police said they were yet to receive medical reports.

Khan's body was airlifted on Saturday in a special Indian Air Force plane to his home in Bosla village in Karimganj, around 350 kilometres away from Guwahati. Local reports had initially alleged Khan was a Bangladeshi immigrant, fanning ethnic tensions, but Karimganj district administration dismissed the charges.

"The Khans have been there for generations, like many Bengali-speaking Muslims in south Assam's Barak Valley," said Sanjib Gohain Baruah, deputy commissioner of Karimganj. Farid's father, Sirajuddin Khan, served in the Indian Army's Military Engineering Service for over 20 years. His two elder brothers - Kamaluddin and Jamaluddin -are soldiers and a third brother, Imanuddin, died in the Kargil War.

Home ministry officials, meanwhile, said the local police and prison authorities were possibly involved in the lynching as only Khan was dragged out of jail with no other inmate escaping during the incident. Dimapur police authorities, however, told newspapers hundreds of school and college students led the mob, tying the hands of law enforcement authorities.

The incident has received widespread national and international condemnation at a time when women's safety is at the centre of a country-wide debate with Union home minister Rajnath Singh asking CM TR Zeliang to ensure law and order and take strict action against the culprits.

The chief minister and state home minister Y Patton also appealed to the people to not give the issue a communal or religious colour, saying social networking sites were being used for rumour mongering to stir up communal hatred.

"We respect the freedom of speech of our citizens, but will not remain a mere spectator to any social networking site and its users irresponsibly acting as channel to create communal feeling," the CM said.

The BJP is a part of the Nagaland government led by Zeliang's Naga People's Front that has been in power since 2003. The BJP's politics in the northeast - where it wants a wider footprint - revolves around the issue of Bangladeshis, particularly Bengali-speaking Muslims, a large number of whom reside in neighbouring Assam.

Khan's home -- Barak Valley -- has seen the most violent protests with community leaders saying the mob was worse than the Taliban. "The lynching was the result of the Nagaland government allowing anti-migrant sentiments to grow over the years," said one Ataur Rahman Mazarbhuiya.

(With PTI and AFP inputs)

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