Editorial: It’s not at all about rape, but territory: ‘Gunda Raj’ on the rise - Nagaland Lynching issue

By: Iftikhar Islam 

Angry mob killed a Muslim (who was alleged rape accused) suspecting him to be a Bangladeshi – “an illegal emigrant”. 

The incident about the “vigilante justice” has raised strong questions against the security system of our country where an angry mob of more than 7000 (some reports 10000) people dragged an alleged rapist from the judicial custody, striped, pelted stones and lynched him. They lugged him 7 km away from the “high-security” Dimapur Central Jail and hanged the blood-drenched body to the clock tower of the city. 

According to the testimony of the “victim”, there was another man who helped the main accused to be with her. From her interview (scroll down to see the interview) we come to know that even the co-accused was equally responsible, rather more responsible, than the accused in this crime. But the angry mob systematically targeted only the main accused Syed Sarif Uddin Khan by dragging him 7 km to death. This clearly shows that it was not at all about rape but about territory. The mob would have killed even the co-accused but he was left because he was a ‘naga’ man and the accused was a Muslim so they easily believed him to be an “illegal” Bangladeshi immigrant and executed him in the most brutal manner. “They found it hard to accept that an 'outsider' dared to commit such a crime on a local Naga girl.” First Report reported. 

“If my brother was an illegal immigrant, how am I in the Indian Army?” Jamaluddin Khan, brother of the victim, argued. “They have made my brother scapegoat”, he grieved. 

Sarifuddin’s two brothers, Jamaluddin khan and kamal khan, are currently in the Indian army and one brother, Imanuddin khan got killed in the Kargil war 1999. His father, Syed Hussain khan, was in Air Force. 

The attack was so planned that some of them had taken printout of his photograph and many of them had his picture in their mobile – only targeting him. We can also see how brutally he was killed by the mob and others taking pictures and videos of the blood-drenched man. Medical report was not available when he was lynched. 

This incident happened in the country where we believe to have the “smart” police force and security forces operating. But this incident have raised many questions on security and filled the fear in the hearts of minorities living across the nation. 

It takes hours together to gather such a large crowd. More than 7000 people marching towards Jail, breaking the strong multiple gates, singling out the accused in the Jail, bringing him out, pelting stones, dragging out about seven kilometers and hanging the body on clock tower in the city. Imagine the time taken to the crowd to do all these activities. 

The police could have easily intervened and stop the mob in performing their illegal activities and arrest those who were guilty of the offences. Dimapur SP Meren Jamir said “How could I use maximum force when there were hundreds of girls in school and college uniforms in the front of a massive mob? It was difficult. There would have been several casualties.” Even if there were school and college students in the mob, they could have easily controlled the mob before they were marching towards the Dimapur Central Jail. Vikram Singh, former DGP, UP said, “they could have used the help of women police force for separating the girls in school and college uniform and could have used non-lethal alternatives like water canal, tear gas and lathi”. What is the use of ‘Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958’ (AFSPA) if it is not used in such situations? 

According to India Today report, “Syed Farid Khan, a 35-year-old second hand car dealer, was accused of raping a 20-year-old Naga woman on February 23 and 24 at different locations. Police arrested him on February 25 and a lower court sent him to judicial custody.” What was the lady doing with him on 24th February if he has already raped her on 23rd? The CCTV footage clearly shows that she has walked in the hotel room of her free will. “It appears on the basis of Khan’s confession, that it was not rape but consensual sex,” a Home Ministry official quoted the Nagaland government report as stating. 

"The woman who levelled the rape charges was close to his family and on very good terms with Farid's wife. I met her many times at their home," Suber, brother of the victim, said. "She had even visited Bosla with Farid and his family." The Telegraph reported. 

Even by knowing that the majority members of the family serves in Indian Army, if people does not believe a person to be an Indian citizen, shows the hatred they have for the particular group of people. 

While speaking to NDTV, Joel Naga, General Secretary of Naga Council, a civil society group said “Just because they have served in the Indian Army doesn’t make them the bonafide Indian citizen” This is the most heinous allegation on the security of Indian Army. It means anyone from any country can join Indian Army with fake documents. Further the NDTV reported him as saying "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." 

People like Joel Naga, questioning on the security of Indian Army and the documents prepared in India can lead to serious chaos in the whole country. Police should take stern action on these people too to retain back the confidence of minorities and maintain the status of India in front of other countries. 

The incident has shaken the entire nation and questions are being raised on Indian security system. Even in the presence of eight security companies the mob could manage to break down the high-security prison gates and took out the accused, dragged him for seven kilometer, pelted stones on him, striped him off completely, and hanged him to the clock tower. The authorities failed miserably in performing their duties effectively. This will be a black spot on Indian authorities. So far the police have managed to arrest only few out of thousands. Even there is no action on the local media who reported false news about him being “illegal Bangladeshi immigrant”. 

"This is a serious lapse in the criminal justice system," said Shemeer Babu, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India. "The Nagaland government must ensure that every person who was part of the mob is brought to justice. Failure to do so will send the message that anyone can commit outrageous abuses and attempt to justify them as an expression of public anger." IBN Live reported. 

Questions raised: 

  • On what basis local media reported him as “illegal Bangladeshi immigrant”?
  • What was police doing when mob marched towards jail?
  • Why didn’t police use other non-lethal alternatives to disperse the crowd?
  • Why the help of Army was not taken under AFSPA?
  • Is politics behind this incident?
  • How the mob easily broke the Jail?
  • They broke the strong steels of Jail inside?
  • What were security forces of Jail doing at the time of incident?
  • What was police doing of the respective areas when they marched 7 km?
  • How the mob of 7000-8000 gathered without the permission of DC?
  • Who is responsible of this heinous attack?

The rape victim interviewed by NDTV:

Could you tell us what exactly happened on February 23rd? 

“It was on 23rd night the co-accused (naga man) called me.. and called me to have some snacks together, he told me that he was alone so I believed and decided to go with him, but later I discovered that he was not alone but he was with the main accused. I told him that I will not go but the co-accused told me that ‘everything is okay when I am with you.’” 

Did you know the accused person from before? 

Yeah, he was my neighbor. 

Okay, so he was a known person to you… And then what happened? 

And then by saying that he just drove off the car and by reaching Super market they bought drinks instead of snacks. And then while we are on the way, the co-accused, on the pretext of meeting his friend, went off a distance away from the car and the accused said to reverse the car, but instead of reversing the car he just start off the car and took me directly to a stadium and then directly to a fort and then directly to a fort.. fort mile..” 

See there are allegations that.. there was.. you have asked for money and then some two lakh rupees and all, so the accused side of the story we have heard, would you clarify from your side, what do you have to say about that. 

It was only after the incident, he told me.. he gave me the money to keep silent and get rid off so I took it the money and give it to the Police Station.

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