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Saturday, March 07, 2015

Why Nagaland Lynching Was Not Just Outrage Over Rape?

A sensational incident shook the Indian culture and forseen the change in agitation. On 5 March, the country was jolted by a horrific incident that questioned the security of India's jails. Thousands of people stormed a jail in Dimapur, Nagaland, dragged a man accused of rape out on the streets, stripped him and then lynched him. 

The man had allegedly raped a 20-year-old Naga college student several times on 23 and 24 February. Infuriated by the news, residents of Dimapur decided to turn vigilantes and murder the man in full public view.


As pictures of the incident surfaced, one could see young men, gleefully snapping pictures of a naked, blood-drenched and probably lifeless 35-year-old Syed Farid Khan.

From the images it could be easily made out that none present in the vicinity was remotely  remorseful of killing the man in such brutal way. The overpowered cops were mute spectators to the violent incident.
Mob rule is not new if we look into history.

The gory incident reminds of a practice that exists in South Africa. Reports say that rapists are made "victims of necklacing, a brutal apartheid-era practise of putting a tyre around someone's neck, dousing it in petrol and setting it alight". According to Aljazeera, one "Simon Mynekeni was killed for allegedly raping and murdering an elderly woman, without proof, and, extraordinarily, while the police were present, he was attacked by a mob".

Khan's death comes very close. Although he is reported to have admitted to the crime he was yet to be convicted by the court of law.

Khan's death caused by a barbaric and blood thirsty mob of over 10,000 was not a result of anger against a rapist. The trigger for such violence was obviously the rape but within it lies a issue of territorial pride.

Khan was earlier suspected to be an illegal migrant from Bangladesh who was a small trader dealing with automobiles. As per media reports, he ran his business with his brother who fled Dimapur soon after the mob lynched Khan. He left a terrified wife and child behind. More than the rape itself, the fact that it was committed by an 'outsider' - not a native Naga - added fuel to fire.

Soon after the incident came to the fore, the alleged rapist was arrested by the police and lodged in the high-security Dimapur Central Jail. But is was not enough to douse the anger among the people. They found it hard to accept that an 'outsider' dared to commit such a crime on a local Naga girl.

There was already great discontent over the increasing population of alleged illegal migrants from Bangladesh in Nagaland. The influx of people from outside the state has deprived many natives of Nagaland of employment. Opportunities to start businesses have also shrunk and there is stiff competition from the said migrants. The combination of factors accounted for deep resentment against the 'outsiders' among the residents of Dimapur.

When the Naga Students' Federation, which is the apex body of all Naga student unions started protesting against the rape and demanded quick justice it only stoked people's anger further.

However, nothing can justify a mob taking law into their own hands. It is surprising that the security apparatus of the state failed to anticipate such an attack when a 10,000 strong mob of angry people landed up in front of the jail. Hundreds of women were also part of the mob.

The aim of the mob was certainly to deliver instant justice (read kill the alleged) as they barged into the high security prison by flattening two gates and singling Khan out from among the other inmates. The police, with great difficulty, could only prevent the crowd from hanging Khan's body from the clock tower which is the centre of Dimapur town.

The situation is under control in Dimapur as of now but it is very volatile with the army being roped in. What is worrying is that several issues are getting mixed up here - from crime against women to preserving the interest of the local community.

Nagaland has always remained a disturbed state right from its birth in July 1960 continuously locking its horns with the neighbouring states of Manipur and Assam for greater territorial control to form the Greater Nagalim or Greater Nagaland.

A further enquiry revealed the identity of the deceased as an Indian national from Badarpur town in Assam's Karimganj district. This has now directed the ire of the vigilante against business establishments belonging to people from Assam and also their families.

Unfortunately, the mob that was allowed to go berserk have been emboldened by this one victory. Reports suggest that they have now directed their wrath at people from other regions making a living in Nagaland. Ironically enough, the issue of women's safety, seems to have gotten lost in this thirst to reinstate the glory of the natives in the state.
Mob justice is also not unfamiliar in other parts of India as well. 

According to a story in The Guardian, one Akku Yadav was lynched by a mob of around 200 women from Kasturba Nagar in Nagpur at 3 pm on 13 August 2004.

"It took them 15 minutes to hack to death the man they say raped them with impunity for more than a decade. Chilli powder was thrown in his face and stones hurled. As he flailed and fought, one of his alleged victims hacked off his penis with a vegetable knife. A further 70 stab wounds were left on his body. 

The incident was made all the more extraordinary by its setting. Yadav was murdered not in the dark alleys of the slum, but on the shiny white marble floor of Nagpur district court".

The tedious justice delivery system of the country is equally to blame. If cases like these are dealt with more interest and skill, the mob will have less excuses to looses themselves upon people guilty of crimes.

However, what is needed is a very strong security force in all states and a communication system between security agencies to prevent such incidents.
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