In Nagaland lynch mob: airline staffer, ex-sepoy, auto driver and teachers

Of the 43 men arrested for parading and lynching Syed Sharif Khan, 25 young men have now been identified as the “core mob”

Written by Smita Nair | Dimapur | Updated: March 13, 2015 9:27:04 am
In this Thursday, March 5, 2015 photo, members of a mob raise their hands to take photos of a man, top center, accused of rape after he was lynched and hung in the city landmark Clock Tower in Dimapur, in the northeastern Indian state of Nagaland. (Source: AP) In this Thursday, March 5, 2015 photo, members of a mob raise their hands to take photos of a man, top center, accused of rape after he was lynched and hung in the city landmark Clock Tower in Dimapur, in the northeastern Indian state of Nagaland. (Source: AP)

The mob accused of lynching a rape accused in Dimapur on March 5 had an airline staffer, two teachers and a man who recently got discharged from the Assam Rifles after serving as a sepoy, a study of the profiles by the Nagaland Police has revealed.

Of the 43 men arrested for parading and lynching Syed Sharif Khan, 25 young men have now been identified as the “core mob”. The police will now explain their role in the chargesheet “based on video clips assembled from various phones of onlookers and eyewitnesses”.

One crucial video is believed to have been taken at the gate of Dimapur Central Jail, which shows specific persons grabbing Khan’s hands. Other clips taken during the next two hours show him being tied to a bike and being pulled in circles and then through the length of the town.

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Among the 25 men alleged to be part of the “core mob” are a second-year B.A. student, a student appearing for his sixth semester in Arts, a B.Com graduate, a third-year B.A student, and two others in separate semesters in Commerce. A 25-year-old B.Com student and another who is doing his Masters in Political Science were particularly brutal, said police officials. An IT student who was looking for a job outside the state is also among those arrested, said an officer.

Also on the list is a vegetable vendor, an autorickshaw driver, a manager employed at a retail shop, two teachers and a person training to become a Hindi teacher.

Police said that what started as a march to condemn the rape slowly turned into a “motivated political” event. Almost all those who attended the rally had responded to messages seen on two blogs, Naga Blog and Naga Spear. “We also feel visuals were used to stir passions. In most of their interrogation reports, they have confirmed that they saw visuals which were disturbing,” confirmed Wabang Jamir, IGP (range). One of the images on the blog showed Naga women protesting on the streets. A cyber probe found that early in the morning on March 4, when comments started pouring in on Naga Blog, the moderators did their best to delete “radical quotes and views”. But things slowly went out of hand, especially after the protesters’ demand that Khan be handed over to them was turned down by the District Collector.

As vandalism spread during the course of the day, photographs of places attacked and ransacked kept getting updated live on the blog. According to officials, when the Naga Blog administrator started deleting them, the “radical elements” moved to another blog, Naga Spears. A team is now looking into the “quality of comments” and “tracking the direction of the mob on social media”, said officials. Most of the comments came from outside the state and those who posted them “tried their best to give it a communal bend”, a social media moderator assisting the police in the probe said. “Many came from New Delhi and Mumbai and a few from Hyderabad,” the moderator added.

The police also found that messaging services were extensively used to add numbers to the rally.

The interrogation reports suggest that the mob believed “they were lynching a Bangladeshi at the time”, said Jamir. “When they congregated, they were responding to messages on these blogs asking them to join the rally. Slowly a mob shaped and they went with the flow,” he added.

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