Anger mounts over Nagaland lynching, Assam CM says medical reports don't confirm rape
Anger mounted on Saturday over the mob lynching of a rape accused in Nagaland as chief minister TR Zeliang blamed social media and his Assam counterpart Tarun Gogoi cast a shadow on the case, saying unconfirmed medical reports had ruled out rape.india Updated: Mar 08, 2015 07:34 IST
Anger mounted on Saturday over the mob lynching of a rape accused in Nagaland as chief minister TR Zeliang blamed social media and his Assam counterpart Tarun Gogoi cast a shadow on the case, saying unconfirmed medical reports had ruled out rape.
Three Nagaland officials have been suspended but no case has been registered yet, two days after 35-year-old Syed Farid Khan -- 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.
Circumstances surrounding the case, however, grew hazier with Khan’s brother Jamaluddin alleging medical reports hadn’t confirmed rape, a claim repeated by the Assam CM later in the day to TV reporters.
Home ministry sources, too, 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 it was yet to receive medical reports.
The incident triggered a wave of protests across Nagaland and neighbouring Assam, where Khan hailed from, with a truck blockade and curfew imposed as tension simmered at the state border. Hundreds of riot police were out on the streets of Dimapur with Nagas advised to not travel through Assam for a few days.
The 35-year-old’s body was airlifted on Saturday in a special Indian Air Force plane to his home in Bosla village in Karimganj district, 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 countrywide debate with Union home minister Rajnath Singh asking 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 Ataur Rahman Mazarbhuiya, a leader.
Gogoi has also written to Singh, asking him to take up the matter strongly with Nagaland. “Attacks on people of a particular community can have widespread repercussion in Assam, which has a huge population of Muslims,” he wrote on Friday.