NEW DELHI: Hundreds of riot police Saturday patrolled a northeastern Indian city after the public lynching of a rape suspect, enforcing a round-the-clock curfew for a second day as the killing was condemned as “barbaric and inhuman”.
The 35-year-old suspect, accused of raping a woman multiple times and arrested in late February, was dragged out of prison in Nagaland state by a mob before being beaten to death and strung up to a clock tower on Thursday.
Riot police patrolled the streets of Dimapur district after authorities imposed a curfew, with Nagaland Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang telling AFP that “the situation remained tense but… under control”.
Tensions have been rising in the district since February 24 when police arrested the alleged rapist, Syed Farid Khan, over the assault of a 19-year-old tribal woman.
Thousands of irate tribals on Thursday broke into a high security jail before dragging out the Bengali-speaking man, who was stripped and paraded for several miles, while men armed with sticks beat him to death.
Another man was shot dead by police after the mob refused to hand over his body, while 60 people were injured in the clashes, which saw attacks on properties belonging to Bengali-speaking residents.
“The act is barbaric, heinous and inhuman,” Tarun Gogoi, the chief minister of Khan’s home state of Assam, said of the lynching.
The mob as well as Nagaland’s government had earlier called him a Bangladeshi migrant.
“The manner in which the youth was dragged out of police custody and killed brutally by a mob on the streets is highly condemnable,” Gogoi said in a statement.
Rights group Amnesty International also condemned the killing as a “serious lapse in the criminal justice system”.
“The Nagaland government must ensure that every person who was part of the mob is brought to justice,” said Shemeer Babu, Amnesty India’s programmes director.
Khan’s brother Jamaluddin said the killing was “politically motivated” and accused police of “falsely implicating his brother on behest of Naga groups, who want to root out non-tribals from the state”.
Nagaland’s indigenous tribal groups, especially the largest Naga tribe, have for years accused the growing population of Bengali-speaking Muslims from nearby Assam state and Bangladesh of illegally settling on their land and usurping resources.
Jamaluddin, an Indian army sergeant, accused Nagaland’s government of “deliberately dubbing him as a Bangladeshi… to justify the killing”.
“The girl’s medical report didn’t confirm rape but still my brother was jailed and then handed over to the mob who lynched him just because he was a Bengali-speaking person,” he told AFP from his home in Assam.
He said his brother had been living in Dimapur for 10 years, where he married a local girl and had a daughter.
The lynching comes as India is in the midst of a raging controversy over a government order to ban the broadcast of a documentary about the December 2012 gang-rape of a young student.
The incident, which sparked outrage both within India and around the world, highlighted the frightening level of violence against women in the world’s second most populous country.