Two men from Guwahati, who were on a visit to Assam’s Karbi Anglong district, were lynched late Friday night by villagers who suspected them to be child lifters. A day later, as a video of the lynching emerged, police arrested five people. The grainy video shows a mob thrashing the two men – Abhijit Nath and Nilotpal Das, both in their 20s – with sticks, with others in the crowd kicking them around.
Das, a musician and event manager, was based in Goa while Nath, an engineering graduate with a “deep interest in fish and animals”, ran a business in Guwahati, said sources close to the families of the victims. Karbi Anglong Superintendent of Police G V Siva Prasad told The Sunday Express that Nath and Das had probably gone to “catch some species of exotic fish available in the region” and were travelling through the village when they were caught.
“Residents of Panjuri Kachari village, which falls under the Dokmoka police station, spotted them and thought they were child abductors. It’s a case of mistaken identity,” Prasad said. A police officer at Dokmoka, 18 km from the village, said they received information about the incident at 8.42 pm, about 40 minutes after the attacked began.
“Our men rushed to the spot as soon as they got the information. By the time they reached, one person (Nath) had collapsed but the other showed some signs of life. We rushed him to the nearest hospital, where he was declared brought dead,” said Prasad. In the video, a bloodied Das is seen screaming, “I am Assamese”, and telling the mob his parents’ names in an attempt to convince them to stop.
A voice from the mob asks the two to explain why they were here at night, to which Das replies that they had come during the day. The clip ends as Das is dragged out of the frame, while Nath, also bloodied, is kicked around. The mob also damaged the SUV in which the men were travelling.
Goa’s music circles, where Das was known as ‘Neel’, remembered him fondly as the “Assamese who played the gogona (an Assamese reed instrument)”. Amrita Anand, organiser of the World Mouth Harp Festival of India, said Das always carried the gogona with him and participated in the 2014 edition of the festival. “We were very happy to meet Neel because we didn’t know of anyone from Assam who played the instrument. He had it in his roots and it showed,” Anand said, adding Das was a “quiet, gentle artiste”.
The incident comes at a time when rumours about the alleged presence of a ‘hopa-dhora’ or chid abductor have been doing the rounds of social media. In a tweet on Saturday, the Assam Police warned people against paying heed to “fake news” being circulated on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter on the ‘hopa-dhora’.
“We request citizens not to pay attention to such fake news, which has already resulted in violence. We request the citizens to report any such matter to Police. Citizens are requested not to take law into their own hands and help the Police to maintain peace and public order,” the post said.
Police are investigating if rumours circulated on social media played a part in the Karbi Anglong incident.
“Rumour mongering (about child lifters) has been going on. Only after investigations will we be able to say if the rumours resulted in this incident,” Director General of Police Kuladhar Saikia told The Sunday Express.
Another such incident was reported on Friday night, when police rescued a youth who was attacked by a group of locals in the state’s Sonitpur district on suspicion of being a child lifter. In this case too, a video of the mob attack had surfaced.
(With inputs from Smita Nair)
Deeply anguished at the unfortunate incident in Karbi Anglong where two young artists Abhijit Nath and Nilotpal Das were killed. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. May the departed souls rest in eternal peace.
— Sarbananda Sonowal (@sarbanandsonwal) June 9, 2018