Nilotpal Das (29), one of the two youths from Guwahati lynched by a mob in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district, had told his father just before leaving home Friday morning, “Don’t worry. I will be fine. The tribal people there are very good, peace-loving.”
“When Nilotpal told me around 10 am that he is leaving for an interior area in Karbi Anglong with only one more friend, I told him it is advisable that he goes with a group of five or six friends,” recounts Gopal Chandra Das, a government employee who retired in 2011.
“But he convinced me that it was safe. He said they will return that night or the next morning,” said Das. “He was a broad-minded boy and amicable. If he spoke to you for two minutes, he would become friends with you,” he added.
About nine hours after they left, Nilotpal and his friend Abhijeet Nath (30) were captured in a grainy video recorded on a cellphone being thrashed by a mob, the size of which eyewitnesses peg at around 500. The duo were suspected to be “child abductors” by local residents — a fear fuelled by rumour-mongering and fake news.
As on Monday evening, 23 people have been arrested in connection with the lynching. This apart, one Diphu resident was arrested on Sunday for spreading fake news regarding ‘child abductors’ on Facebook.
“I have not watched the video and will never be able to watch it,” says Radhika Das, Nilotpal’s mother and a teacher at a government primary school. Radhika had left home for school before Nilotpal left that day.
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The youngest of three siblings, Nilotpal was a musician specialising in traditional percussion and woodwind instruments. According to his family, he wanted to switch to full-time music after clearing higher secondary, but on the insistence of his father graduated in commerce from Delhi University before doing a course in sound-engineering from Mumbai.
“For the last four years, Nilotpal was fully into music. He also loved travelling,” said Das.
He said Nilotpal recently completed a solo bike ride from Goa to Guwahati. “Nothing happened to him during his long rides, but in his own home state…,” says Radhika, before breaking down.
About 10 km away, Ajit Kumar Nath, a government employee and Abhijeet’s father, meets those who come to his home in Guwahati’s Six Mile locality to condole his son’s death.
Nath says, “Those who have done this should be punished appropriately. That’s the only thing I have to say. What happened to the duo should not be repeated, ever again.”
Abhijeet had turned to business after graduating as a mechanical engineer from a private university in Chennai. His friends and family remember him as a lover of dogs and fishes. “Sometimes, he would even have a problem with us eating fish,” said Nath, fighting back tears.
Some members of the Nath family said they demand institution of a fast-track court and a CBI probe into the case.