A judicial inquiry commission that probed the lynching of a prisoner after dragging him out of Dimapur’s Central Jail on March 3, 2015, has blamed “ineffective and erroneous handling of the situation” by the police and administration for the violence.
Syed Sarif Khan, who hailed from Karimganj (Assam) and was working as a used-car dealer in Dimapur, was under trial for allegedly raping a college student. Police watched helplessly when a mob broke open several gates of the jail, dragged him out, killed him and dragged the body for several kilometres to City Tower where they hanged it in full public view.
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“The violence that took place in Dimapur Town on March 5, 2015 is the result of ineffective and erroneous handling of the situation. This can happen only when the officers at the helm of affairs are either incompetent or lack will to dedicate themselves to [saving] democracy and [upholding] the Constitution of India,” reads the report of the commission headed by Justice (Retd) BD Agarwal, a copy of which has been accessed by The Indian Express. It adds Khan’s life “could not be saved and the trespass of anti-social elements deep inside the Central Jail could not be prevented due to lack of devotion in the duty by the administrative and police officers”. “Though the protestors took more than two hours to reach the Central Jail from the City Tower and took more than three hours in breaking the jail gates and taking away the rape accused, the government officers could not prevent them violating the prohibitory order… The students and other hooligans made a mockery of the statutory order passed by the District Magistrate under Section 144 Cr PC,” the report reads. “Both the Executive and Police officers seem to have surrendered before a small crowd and utterly failed to maintain law and order,” it adds.
The report adds police were ill-equipped to handle the mob. “The incident could have been prevented had there been sufficient water cannons, teargas grenade guns, rubber bullet guns, protective shields, helmets, bullet proof vehicles and batons with security personnel… From the evidence of witnesses it appears that only one water cannon was available under Dimapur DEF but the said water cannon could not be sent to the site as the roads were blocked by the protestors. Similarly, the security personnel were also short of riot control equipments and non-use of available equipments for want of orders from senior police and executive officers. It is a different issue as to why there was no order for heavy lathicharge, continues bursting of tear gas shells and firing upon the crowd,” it states. The report adds police officers in Nagaland hardly had any training on crowd management. “The incident could have been dealt with more professionally had the police and executive officers [been] given the opportunity to undergo courses with regard to controlling mob violence.”
The commission has described the mob as a “mini-size” protest — and comprising mostly girl students — and said “the executive officers and security forces appear to have surrendered before the small crowd for no valid reason”. They could not muster the courage to exercise powers vested with them under the law, it says.
Noting that Khan appeared to have been targeted because he was “suspected to be a Bangladeshi”, the Agarwal Commission also has also suggested update and revision of the National Register of Citizens in Nagaland as is being done in Assam. It did not mention this but Khan, in fact, was a citizen of Assam and his father and two brothers had served in the Indian Army.
“The incident was the outcome of people’s grievance against the alleged inaction of the civil administration to detect and deport illegally migrated Bangladeshis in as much as one Syed Sarif Khan (an alleged Bangladeshi) had allegedly committed rape upon a Naga girl,” the commission states. Pointing out that despite Nagaland’s provision for inner line permit, “the influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants is still unabated”, the commission says updating NRC in Nagaland also would go a long way towards resolving the issue of detecting foreign nationals.