New Delhi: Nagaland Police arrested 22 people on Sunday over last week's storming of a high security prison and subsequent lynching of a rape suspect, an act of mob violence that sparked protests in a region divided on religious and ethnic lines.
Several thousand people in restive Nagaland state attacked the prison to drag out a rape suspect, beat him to death and tied the body to a clock tower on Thursday, forcing authorities to impose a curfew to restore order.
The government blocked all internet and mobile data services in the state for 48 hours from Saturday night to stop people from circulating images and videos of the lynching of Syed Sarif alias Farid Khan in Dimapur. Police said the step was taken as a preventive measure to contain tension.
It also imposed curfew in Dimapur town from 3pm on Sunday till 12 midnight following rumours that some people were planning a candlelight march at the town's City Tower in the evening where Khan was lynched.
Reports of the alleged rape of a college student, which led to the lynching of the accused, first appeared on social media, with provocative posts identifying the accused, Syed Sharif Khan, as an illegal Bangladeshi immigrant. Although the rape allegedly occurred on February 23 and the victim filed an FIR the next morning, local newspapers only reported it a week later. By then the accused, who was arrested on February 24, had been sent to judicial custody.
Both the social media and initial reports by local dailies alleged that Khan was a Bangladeshi. Even state DGP L L Doungel told the media after the lynching on Thursday that he was a suspected illegal Bangladeshi immigrant. However Indian Express reported that that Khan hailed from a family of Army personnel. The police have also found a driving licence issued to him in Assam.
Naga Students' Federation (NSF) NSF president Tongpang Ozukum was quoted as saying that "time and again, Naga civil societies have raised concerns about the danger of harbouring illegal Bangladeshi immigrants... the recent incident is not just a heinous crime, but it is a direct challenge to the entire Naga community."
Police said the medical examination of the survivor confirmed she had been raped and at least 22 people were arrested in connection with the lynching.
Khan was buried at his native Bosla Village in Karimganj District on Sunday amidst tight security. The body was airlifted to his place a day before when Nagaland authorities handed it over to the Dimarpur Muslim Council.