Brutal lynching of rape suspect in India prompts suspensions, judicial probe

A crowd of Indian men surround an alleged rapist after he was dragged out of prison and beaten to death in Dimapur in the northeastern Indian state of Nagaland on March 5, 2015 (AFP Photo / Caisii Mao)
India has suspended several officials and ordered a full investigation after angry mob broke into a prison, grabbed a rape suspect and lynched him on the street in the northeastern state of Nagaland.

According to the Indian media, protests in the city of Dimapur began on Wednesday, with agitators urging the mob to seize a man accused of raping a local woman and held in the city jail since late February. On Thursday, the mob stormed the Dimapur jail, seized the suspect, identified as Syed Farid Khan, 35, and reportedly beat him to death. His body was dragged behind a vehicle around the town square.

The police were reluctant to break up the “thousands” of protesters by force, as the mob included many schoolchildren. “There would have been a lot of casualties,” said L.L. Doungel, Nagaland’s Director General of Police. Eventually, the police fired on the mob, wounding five people. One of the wounded later died.

Nagaland authorities have suspended the district commissioner, the police superintendent and the superintendent of the Dimapur jail for“failure to control the situation,”the Times of India reported. The government has also increased police and military presence throughout the state, trying to prevent ethnic conflict between the Naga majority and the state’s minority communities. The lynch mob had accused Khan of being an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh, or a migrant from the neighboring Indian state of Assam.

Akum Longchari, editor of the Dimapur daily The Morung Express, condemned the lynching as “disturbing” and called for an investigation into the “complete failure… of the state machinery and how this incident was allowed to happen.”

Meanwhile, Indians heatedly debated whether the Dimapur incident was an appalling instance of mob rule or a heroic action of the local community protecting its women.

India has a troubled record of dealing with violence against women. In December 2012, 23-year-old Jyoti Singh was brutally gang-raped aboard a Delhi bus. Following mass outpouring of public outrage, the government imposed harsher penalties for rapists and set new guidelines for police. Four adult suspects were sentenced to death, while one, a minor, received the maximum sentence of three years in prison.

READ MORE: Delhi rape documentary being removed from YouTube, at India gov’t request

One of the suspects, interviewed for the BBC documentary “Daughter of India,” was unrepentant. After his comments were made public by the BBC as part of the promotional campaign for the film, the Indian government banned it. BBC showed the film on Wednesday, but pulled it from YouTube after Delhi’s protests.

Parallels have also been made with a 2004 incident, when an angry mob of 200 women stoned to death and dismembered a man they accused of being a rapist in the central Indian city of Nagpur. However, the Nagpur suspect was apparently a serial offender, whereas the man lynched in Nagaland may or may not have been falsely accused.

However, the Nagpur suspect was apparently a serial offender, whereas the investigation against the man lynched in Nagaland was still in its early stages.