BEYOND the outrage sparked by the lynching on March 5 of a rape-accused by a mob who dragged him out of jail in Dimapur, police appear to have hit a wall of questions in their investigation into the original complaint filed by the victim.
Nagaland IGP Wabang Jamir has insisted that there “is a prima facie case of rape” but investigators are pursuing various leads based on the woman’s complaint and the FIR filed at 11.45am on February 24, the day after the alleged rape.
Jamir said police are awaiting the medical reports of the woman and the accused that were sent for “expert forensic opinion” to establish the crime, but police sources close to the investigation said there were certain strands in the FIR that may require further investigation. They include:
# The woman had told reporters that she lived in a rented room in a compound where Khan stayed with his wife, their little daughter and a brother. She added that she had been to Khan’s room before “because his wife is a Naga from the same tribe and same village” as she was. Asked whether she ever felt that Khan was a bad man, she replied, “No.”
In this context, investigators want to know why the woman had objected to travelling with Khan in the back seat of the car that day, while a “common friend” was in the driver’s seat? The “friend”, a Naga youth who runs a business, is now in judicial custody as a co-accused.
The woman had said: “I agreed to go when my friend asked me to go out for snacks.
But then after a while I found that Khan too was there at the back seat. When I objected, my friend said nothing will happen.” The woman’s complaint says she was raped by Khan in the car and then twice more inside a hotel room.
# Khan’s younger brother Syed Suberuddin Khan, who runs a shop in Dimapur, has claimed that his brother was innocent and that the victim was his “sister-in-law”. “She is related. My brother had married a Naga girl who was related to the victim,” Suberuddin told The Indian Express, adding, “My brother’s was a love marriage.”
Suberuddin said he had returned to Dimapur only on Saturday to collect his brother’s body after fleeing to his ancestral home in Assam’s Karimganj to escape the violence triggered by the case.
“Why would he commit such a crime? He was a God-fearing man. Moreover, she was a shaali (sister-in-law) and he had known her for several years. There is some mystery somewhere,” he said.
# Investigators are also looking into the woman’s statement regarding what happened inside the car with Khan that day. “After my friend left on the pretext of meeting someone else, Khan moved to the front seat and drove the car at full speed. He also snatched my mobile and switched it off. I thought of jumping out of the car, but it was going at full speed,” she had said.
Before that, she had said, her ‘friend’ stopped to pick up alcohol on the way, instead of snacks.
Police are now trying to retrace the route that Khan allegedly took that day after getting behind the wheel. The woman’s complaint says she was taken to various points in the city and allegedly raped inside the car at the “Fourth-mile area”, and twice again in a hotel room.
“She claims she was intoxicated and in a subconscious state because Khan had forced beer into her mouth,” said an officer. “She also said she feared for her life because Khan had threatened to kill her and that he had allegedly beaten her. Now that Khan is dead, we have to depend on his last statement, which we are trying to match with what the woman has said.”
# Finally, a police officer said, CCTV images from the hotel show Khan entering the hotel alone at first. It shows him coming out after speaking to the receptionist, and the woman then entering alone followed by Khan. A subsequent portion apparently shows Khan and the woman coming out together later.
The woman had said that she accompanied Khan “in a subconscious state”. “On reaching the hotel I don’t know where I was,” she had said.
Police are also probing how the CCTV footage got leaked because the footage was being shared on social media within a week of the incident. Details of the case first appeared on social media platforms on March 3, and was picked up by the print media the next day after officers confirmed registration of a case.
Then again, there are some other questions that only the police can answer.
# Why weren’t they adequately prepared when there were indications on March 4 —- demonstrations by college students, incidents of stray violence —- that the situation would worsen the next day? And this despite the District Magistrate promulgating Section 144 after some shops were ransacked that evening.
# Why wasn’t more force deployed even as reports came in that a crowd had begun marching towards Dimapur Central Jail where Khan was lodged? As one source pointed out, the Army’s 3 Corps HQ is located on the outskirts of Dimapur —- all it would have taken was a faxed request for a Quick Reaction Team (QRT) to hit the streets.