DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
In a blatant defiance of the country’s justice system and the rule of law, a 5000-strong mob stormed the central jail in galand’s commercial hub Dimapur on March 5, dragged a rape accused out, paraded him through the streets after stripping him ked, and then watched him succumb to the fatal assault by the frenzied men. Not satisfied with his death, the attackers hanged the body on the clock tower in the middle of the dusty, garbage-filled town, with many clicking photographs of the macabre scene on their mobile phones. So long, one had heard of the murderous ISIS carrying out such merciless assaults or the Taliban meting out instant justice.
The charge against Syed Farid Khan alias Sarifuddin (27), who hailed from Bosla village, under Badarpur police station in southern Assam’s Karimganj district, was that he had raped a 20-year-old ga girl at a hotel in Dimapur on February 23. Following a complaint, the police arrested Farid, who ran a small automobile shop in the town, the next day. A local court forwarded him to judicial custody. It was from the supposedly high-security Dimapur Central Jail, where the accused was lodged, that the mob extricated him after breaking open two of the prison gates. The jail security remained a mute witness to the rampage. Farid’s family have since claimed he was innocent and that the alleged ‘victim’, the 20-year-old girl who was known to the family, was blackmailing him with a demand of Rs 200,000.
The entire episode has once again exposed facts about poor governce and an extremely poor law and order situation in galand. Union Home Minister Rajth Singh has called for a report and the galand Government has instituted a probe, but the investigations must go beyond where the police or the local Dimapur district administration had erred. It is a fact that tension was mounting since February 24, the day Farid was arrested on the basis of the rape charge. Despite this, no additiol precautiory measure was taken by the administration or the jail authorities to boost security around the prison complex. A local student group had even held a rally on the morning of the jail break-in to seek justice following the alleged rape. Even this didn’t move or shake the Dimapur administration. It is fine the moribund galand government, currently facing a political tug of war for chief ministership, has since placed the Dimapur Deputy Commissioner, the Superintendent of Police and the jailor on suspension, but the probe need to examine whether more serious factors were behind the jail break by the mob and whether a section of the jail staff, as suspected, are hand-in-glove with the protestors.
One must factor in the fact that Dimapur is virtually galand’s crime capital. Various factions of the rebel NSCN (tiol Socialist Council of galand) and other ga insurgent groups raise ‘annual tax’ from traders and businessmen who operate in Dimapur. This is an open secret. galand’s new Governor, P. B. Acharya, last fortnight told this writer, in a different context though, that the daily turnover in Dimapur is to the tune of Rs 500 crore. One must also note that the headquarters of the Isak-Muivah faction of the NSCN or the NSCN-IM, called Camp Hebron, is on the outskirts of Dimapur. The NSCN-IM’s writ runs large in Dimapur. It is another matter that the rebel group has not been able to clinch an agreement with New Delhi after 18 years of so-called ‘peace negotiations.’
The NSCN-IM may not have triggered the mob upsurge that led to the jail break-in but its influence in the area may be the prime reason for the emergence of other rag-tag outfits around Dimapur. A couple of months ago, a new group called ‘Survival galand’ has come up. Largely comprising Sema gas, the group has been going around preparing lists of people from outside galand working or carrying out business in Dimapur. According to officials in the Union Home Ministry, which is aware of the development, members of the group have been issuing ‘residence certificates’ to such people for a fee. The MHA has since provided the galand Government with details of this group called ‘Survival galand’ as well as the mes of around four of its key leaders. It is important to crackdown on such loose groups because they help spread and channelize xenophobia in volatile areas like Dimapur.
The Centre’s ibility to clinch an acceptable ga peace agreement even after engaging in talks with the NSCN-IM for 18 years has added to the deteriorating situation in galand. Therefore, it is heartening to find Prime Minister rendra Modi calling for fixing a time frame by which to end peace talks with all insurgent groups and not engage in such talks with new groups or factions. Rampant corruption is another major reason for lawlessness and lack of public order in galand, particularly in Dimapur. As galand Governor Acharya said during the conversation with this writer, ‘There is king size corruption in the Northeast.’ Unless measures are initiated to tackle all these issues holistically, the problems in galand, too, would turn king size, so much so that it may veer out of control.
Already, groups and individuals in Assam are engaged in protests and blocking roads leading to galand. With tension along the Assam-galand border over disputed territory becoming a constant phenomenon, the situation needs a holistic magement. Another dimension to the ‘insider-outsider’ issue in galand is the general perception that all Bengali-speaking Muslims are illegal ‘Bangladeshi’ migrants. Even Farid, who was lynched, was dubbed a ‘Bangladesh’ which is far from the truth. His father had served in the Indian Army and currently, two of his brothers are with the Army. The question is simple—the gas must realize that galand is a part of India and just as the gas are free to move about or work in any part of India, those from outside galand, too, are free to do the same in galand. Moreover, galand has the Inner Liner Permit system that requires a non-ga to obtain such a document to enter the State. That itself is a provision to restrict the entry of non-gas to galand. Of course, Dimapur is outside the purview of the ILP and, if necessary, the gas may persuade their Government to extend it to Dimapur as well to check the entry of new people in search of work. The Centre must examine all these aspects to restore a semblance of order in a chaotic and virtually udministered town like Dimapur.