What started out as a peaceful public protest condemning the mob lynching of two Guwahati youths, Nilotpal Das and Abhijeet Nath in Karbi Anglong, turned violent in the city’s Commerce College point on Sunday evening. The protests, which started around 4 pm, had an overarching presence of college students who were shouting slogans (such as “We want justice”; “Karbi Anglong shame on you”) and holding up placards. However, around 6 pm, the protest took a violent turn. Hiren Chandra Nath, Commissioner of Police, Guwahati, told The Indian Express, “This protest was going on peacefully. But then a few miscreants from the back pelted stones, bricks and water bottles. Six of our men were injured.”
“Everything was going fine,” said Simanta Saikia, 30, who had formed a Whatsapp group “Aami Axomiya” after the incident on Saturday. “We had nearly 1,000 participants in our group and everyone wanted to do something. So I went “live” on my Facebook yesterday, and requested people to gather at 4 pm at Commerce point. Some newer groups of people came and started throwing stones towards the end and that is when it turned violent. I have no idea who they are,” he said. Following that the police had to resort to a “mild” lathi-charge. “Most of the people who had gathered were doing the demonstrations peacefully but there were some miscreants,” Nath added.
Nath further highlighted that demonstrations and candle-light marches were held at several locations across the city but there were no incidences of violence anywhere else. “From tomorrow, no demonstration or procession will be allowed without prior permission from my office,” Nath added.
Meanwhile, condolences and cries for justice have been flooding social media since the news broke on Saturday morning. A Facebook group “Justice for Nilotpal and Abhijeet” currently has 64.1k members with regular updates, condolence messages and pleas for justice.
On Sunday evening, many protestors — who were dressed in black — refused to speak. Some said the whole incident gave Assam “a bad name”. “People anyway think of us northeasterners as junglees. And now because of some people, we have been given a bad name,” said a young woman at the protest.
“We have done a signature campaign and collected over 500 signatures. We will submit this to the DC. We want the murderers to be punished at the earliest,” said Angan Kashyap, 21, who was collecting signatures at the protest.
A group of girls, friends of Das, present at the protest was in tears. “He came to his hometown after travelling the world. But it was here that he had to prove his own identity. In his own land. And he was killed,” said one of them, adding that the two boys were killed because of reasons as petty as “their appearance, their dreadlocks, their tattoos.”
Fake posts about ‘hopa-dhora’ or child abductors have reportedly been going viral around the Dokmoka area in Karbi Anglong and believed to be the reason Nath and Das were lynched. “That’s just a pretext. Some are calling them eve-teasers. Some are calling them kidnappers. But there is much more to it,” said Das’s very close friend. “When they opened their bags, they found chocolates, pens and notebooks. That’s how artistic they were. They would sit amidst nature and draw. Those are the kind of people who have been killed,” she said.
On Sunday, in the aftermath of the lynching, chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal held a high-level meeting at his official residence in Guwahati and took stock of the prevailing situation in the state.
Chief Minister Sonowal asked DGP Kuladhar Saikia to ensure that the police force maintains constant vigilance on all activities and put a spanner on any canards likely to vitiate public order and peace in the state. Referring to the killing of two young artistes, he maintained that the culprits should be brought to book and no leniency should be exhibited in dealing with the incident, an official press release said.