Intro: In spite of a long build-up and clear warnings of potential violence, the Dimapur administration was unable to prevent a total breakdown of law and order in the town as an alleged rapist was brutally lynched by a thousand-strong mob on March 5.
The mob stormed the Central Jail in Dimapur, Nagaland to drag out the rapist and proceeded towards the Clock Tower Junction for a public hanging. The mob subjected him to severe physical assaults on the 7 km long way which led, to his death. The limp body was dragged behind a motorcycle to the assigned spot and strung up on a fence. His male organ was reportedly chopped off.
The news of the rape and the arrest of the accused first broke on March 3 in the local media. The Dimapur District police of Nagaland State kept the incident under wraps for over a week. The organisations like Naga Council Dimapur (NCD) and Naga Women Hoho (NWH) claimed that, “unless all Nagas take responsibility to tackle the menace of unabated Bangladeshi infiltrators influx and their stay here in the State, crimes against our women and daughters by these people will only increase.
The NCD and the NWH further urged that, “It is time for Naga landlords to stop renting their vacant plots and buildings to Bangladeshi infiltrators and their cohorts; village and colony councils should ensure that no Bangladeshi infiltrators are sheltered in their jurisdictions; and it is time for the district administration and police to ensure that issuance of inner line permits and its monitoring is strictly checked and adhered to.”
Matters became worse as protesters marched to the Deputy Commissio-ner’s office demanding the accused be handed over to them. A 9-member representative team of the protesting students, accompanied by members of Survival Nagaland (SN), Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), Naga Women Hoho Dimapur (NWHD), socialist activists, Western Sumi Totimi Hoho (WSTH), All Nagaland College Students Union (ancsu), Konyak Students Union Dimapur (ksud), Nagaland Alliance for Children and Women (NACW) and Dimapur District Citizen Forum (DDCF) etc, held a meeting inside the DC’s conference hall with the district administration and police officials. However, the meeting failed to reach any compromise with the student leaders sticking to their demand. The DC and SP assured that all possible steps would be taken to punish the accused as per the law. They, however, explained their inability to hand over the accused to the protestors owing to certain provisions of the law.
The protests continued throughout the day and several shops owned by migrants were damaged despite of heavy security. The police fired blank rounds, tear gas shells and lathi charged the protesters but could not control the crowd. The jail authorities, later, allowed the protesters to inspect the prison cells to identify the accused that had been shifted there from the East Dimapur Police Station sub-jail.
This is not the first time that an alleged rapist has been lynched to death in Nagaland. Last year, an accused was lynched at Meluri Town in Phek District around 280 km from Dimapur for allegedly raping a girl and subsequently strangulating her to death which is why the nature of the protests should have forewarned the police.
Much of the violence seems to have been driven by xenophobic hysteria against outsiders—in this case Bangladeshi Muslims.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has asked for a full report from the Nagaland Government. The Centre has put high alert on Assam and additional forces from Assam have been sent to Dimapur in order to quell any violence they may arise again. Rajnath Singh said, “Necessary action will be taken against the perpetrators of the incident. Instructions have been given to the concerned officials. We have also provided adequate security there.” The Chief Minister TR Zeliang said that a committee will probe if there was security lapse. Dimapur Director General of Police has said that all the arrests have been made based on the video footage. He added that the police was trying to identify the attackers. He also said that the police did not use force as the mob consisted mostly of students.
The medical report, as per police officers, confirmed sexual assault. The police indicated that anger started after some rumour of a minority student’s organisation vandalised Nagaland House in Guwahati. There are reports of some other prisoners also escaping taking the chance of crowd in the jail.
How the incident occurred?
The girl is a Sema Naga tribe studying in BA 1st year in SD Jain Girls College, Dimapur. On the fateful day, she was reportedly called out by one of her known Sema Naga male friend on the pretext of taking her out. After taking the girl out in a car, the accused Syed Farid Khan who is married to a Sema Naga woman stopped at super market area and bought some drinks. Later, the accomplice on the pretext of meeting one of his friends left the duo behind at the Super Market area where the girl was sexually assaulted. The accused that deals in second hand cars and lives in Dimapur was arrested on February 25, 2015 when the girl lodged an FIR in Diphupar Police Station.
Though the girl’s accomplice was guilty of alluring her and handing her over to the accused, he appeared to be condoned by the mob presumably for the reason that he is also a Sema Naga—the community which dominates Dimapur District.
DC, SP Dimapur, Senior Superintendent Jail suspended
The State Cabinet on March 7, placed Deputy Commissioner Dimapur, Wezope Kenye (NCS); Senior SP Dimapur, Meren Jamir (IPS) and Senior Superintendent of Jail, in-charge of Dimapur Central Jail, B. Chuba Phom under suspension for dereliction of duty on March 5.
Nagaland has witnessed political chaos from last few months spearheaded by power hungry politicians in league with militant organisations. They had been on a look to find out any opportunity to destabilise the ministry by disturbing peace and tranquillity in the State.
This incident of rape provided a golden opportunity to these people who reportedly incited, initiated and encouraged the mob in the process of jail break, taking out of the accused from judicial custody and torturing him to death.
One man judicial inquiry
Governor of Nagaland has appointed a retired District and Sessions Judge Veprasa Nyekha as the one-man judicial inquiry to probe the March 5 incident in Dimapur.
Nagaland Government’s report
Nagaland Government gave a report to the Centre conveying that Sayeed Sarif Khan, who was lynched by a mob in Dimapur, did not rape the girl who accused him of assaulting her but they had consensual sex twice.
The barbaric image revived
Many western writers referred Nagas as barbaric and merciless. Thanks to leaders like Dr SC Jamir, NC Zeliang, Chingwang Konyak, Prof Gangmumei Kamei, Ramkuiwangbe Newme, Reishang Keishing, Chalie Kevichusa, Hokishe Sema, Vizol and JB Jasoki etc. because of whose nationalist character and civilised behaviour, Naga image improved as a civilised society but March 5 incident has revived that barbaric image. People described it as Talibanic action. Most upsetting and disturbing aspect is that the slogan—‘Nagaland for Christ’ appeared to have no influence on Naga Society and preachers of love and peace were nowhere to be seen.
Jagdamba Mall (The writer is an expert on North-East Affairs based in Guwahati)