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Bringing justice by taking law into hands?


A shocking incident that took place recently in Nagaland in which an alleged rapist was brutally killed by an angry mob exposes the face of not any uncivilised society but the rage and an aggressive stance of the people towards sexual violence.

A furious mob of around 1, 500 people including students broke into a jail in Dimapur district in the state and lynched a man accused of raping a Naga woman after parading him naked for miles and thrashing him mercilessly to death. The crowd also set fire to vehicles forcing the police to clamp curfew in the area. The man identified as 35-year old Syed Farid Khan was in custody after being arrested for sexually assaulting the 20-year old multiple times between 23 and 24 of February. The woman had filed a complaint with the police; but the issue sparked anger and was taken up by the Naga Students Forum and other groups. Khan was severely beaten and pelted with stones and dragged along for almost four miles which caused his death and was hung at a roadside roundabout while some among the frenzied crowd clicked pictures of the incident. Neither the police nor the authorities took steps to curb the happenings that occurred in broad daylight.

The tragic incident can’t be neglected as mere hatred towards the accused or as sympathy towards the victim but was rather ignited by communal sentiments. Attempts were made to impart a communal colour to the incident rather than seeing it as a serious security lapse. According to the reports the anger was flared by the fact that Khan was an illegal Bangladeshi immigrant. Ethnic tensions have been existing for decades between the indigenous groups in the area and the Muslim migrants from Bangladesh. Khan’s family have linked the incident to the rivalry between the groups accusing the police of falsely implicating him in the rape case. It was later found that Khan belonged to the Badarpur town in Assam's Karimganj district with all his brothers serving in the army. Khan, a dealer in second hand vehicles was married to a woman of Naga community. The medical examination reports don’t confirm rape. Neither does the cctv footages from the hotel. The facts plainly confirm that Khan, innocent, was stabbed to death for a crime he didn’t commit. It incident is also viewed upon by the media as a political conspiracy to topple the state government.

The earlier instance of igniting communal sentiments through highly poisonous remarks, assembling people and defying the law to carry out such attacks was seen in the Babri Masjid case as well as during the time of the infamous Gujarat riots. The Judiciary too had failed to take a stand on the matter and bring justice. In Odisha, Christian as well as Dalits has been targeted earlier. Often the negligence and indifference towards law is used as tool to carry out the petty political and personal motives. The incident coincided with the raging controversy over the government ban on the broadcasting of a documentary “India’s Daughter”, a short film by film-maker Leslee Udwin based on an interview with the one of the convicted in the fatal gang-rape of a medical student on a moving bus in December 2012.

Violence against women needs to be tackled effectively through stringent measures and laws imposed by the government and the convicted should be punished. But taking justice into their own hands as in the Nagaland incident is tragic and indicates the frightening temperament of people towards sexual violence against women. It should be changed along with the attitude of the political leaders of unleashing communal remarks which otherwise would only destroy the foundation of the country.

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