"I am an Assamese!" Victims of 2018 Mob Lynching Abhi-Nil Still Await Justice

Today, the heart-wrenching Abhi-Nil mob lynching incident completes five years and their close friends and family have organised programmes to remember them fondly on their sixth death anniversary.
‘I am an Assamese’ Victims of 2018 Mob Lynching Abhi-Nil Still Await Justice
‘I am an Assamese’ Victims of 2018 Mob Lynching Abhi-Nil Still Await Justice
Himadri Kalita

মোক নামাৰিব...মই অসমীয়া হয়... মই অসমীয়া হয়... মোৰ দেউতাৰ নাম গোপাল চন্দ্ৰ দাস, মোৰ মাৰ নাম ৰাধিকা দাস... মোক যাবলৈ দিয়ক

Late Nilopal Das

“Don’t Kill Me…Please Don’t Beat Me. I am an Assamese. I AM AN ASSAMESE. My Father’s Name is Gopal Chandra Das And Mother’s Name Is Radhika Das… Please Let Us Go…” (translated from Assamese)

Do you recall these screams? It is still fresh in the memories of those who have watched the video or heard the voices of Abhijit and Nilotpal screaming their hearts out trying to convince their Assamese brothers that they belong to the same community but unfortunately, Assam lost two beautiful souls on their land.

Today, the heart-wrenching Abhi-Nil mob lynching incident completes five years and their close friends and family have organised programmes to remember them fondly on their sixth death anniversary.

It was June 8, 2018, I was studying for the second-semester examination for my Bachelor's degree and occasionally going through social media. I was skipping a video that I noticed was shared by most of my friends on all platforms. I thought I would watch it later but then suddenly the volume on my phone got raised and I heard the screams, the disturbing screams that made my heart come out wanting to help those poor souls escape from the monsters. But like most of them, I could not and it was too late for those who went to the rescue.

Nilotpal Das was a sound engineer based in Goa while Abhijit Nath was a businessman from Guwahati. Both took a long drive to Kangthilangsho in Karbi Anglong and on their way back, they were stopped by some villagers at Panjuri under the jurisdiction of Dokmoka Police Station.

Notably, they allegedly argued with a person named Alfajoz after which he started to spread rumours among the villagers claiming them to be child lifters. Most residents of remote areas do not have access to digital literacy and at that time a WhatsApp message was being forwarded stating that a few child lifters have entered the state and may kidnap the children. Due to a lack of digital literacy, the villagers fell prey to the rumour and suspected the duo to be child lifters.

The villagers stopped the two friends, Abhijit and Nilotpal, and pulled them out of the SUV on which they were travelling. The irate villagers beat them to death with bamboo sticks, wooden planks and other items suspecting them to be kidnappers. They also vandalized the vehicle on which they were travelling.

The attackers, hours after killing them, posted a video on social media, which soon got viral, where Nilotpal could be heard screaming, pleading with folded before the assaulters trying to convince them that they are also Assamese.

The incident not only sent a shockwave across Assam or India but to the world with thousands of people taking to the streets demanding a fast-track trial in the case. Several residents of Karbi Anglong residing in Guwahati for study or work purposes had to remain closed doors as they were receiving death threats.

In addition, people from the USA, Iran, Russia, Nepal, Philippines and Thailand also stood with placards condemning the mob lynching and demanding justice.

Following the incident, the police submitted an 844-page chargesheet against the accused and as of now, all 48 accused were identified of which one was a juvenile.

The case is currently being heard in Nagaon District and Sessions Court that remanded 47 accused in judicial custody.

While speaking to their friends and family, it is established that a total of 70 witnesses have recorded their statements in the court and only one is left to record the statement. After recording the statements of witnesses, the court will record the statements of the accused, and then the court will hear the arguments and pronounce a verdict.

Although it looks like nothing much is left, the parents and friends of Abhi-Nil feel that justice is being delayed.

One of the duo’s friends said, “It looks like the process is too short and a verdict will be pronounced soon but it is not. Too much delay is being done, sometimes the witness is not available, and the judge keeps on changing and so on. Yet we are still hopeful that our friends will get justice.”

Though the Abhi-Nil mob lynching incident has received widespread condemnation yet such incidents are not being stopped in the state.

It is due to the lack of mention of the term ‘lynching’ in the Indian Penal Code (IPL) due to which the accused get away with such kinds of heinous crime.

Following the 2018 incident, several political parties had demanded a bill on mob lynching and the ruling government also considered to introduce the bill however, it is yet to be proposed and implemented in the state.

The case of Abhi-Nil was due to the lack of digital literacy and the continuous cases of mob lynching in Assam because of the lack of stringent laws to enforce on such inhumane people.

During the time when the duo was lynched to death, reports of forward messaging came to the fore that claimed a few child lifters have entered the state which did not have any valid evidence to support however, the villagers fell prey to the rumour and suspected the duo to be child lifters as one of them had deadlocks hair. With the internet services being affordable for all sections of society and mobile phones available at the lowest cost, the residents in the remote areas have access to the information provided online but these people lacks digital literacy.

Digital literacy is defined as an individual’s ability to find, evaluate and communicate information by utilizing digital platforms. The residents of remote areas believe in all the information available online as they were never told that NOT information available on the internet is true.

It is not only the case of remote areas but also in the case of most people in urban areas as most of them do not bother to fact-check it online. Mostly senior citizens who are not used to smartphones tend to forward any message without giving an ounce of thought or fact-checking.

For these people, digital literacy is important so that no other parent loses their child or children lose their parents in the hands of fake news spread on social media.

On the other hand, even after the tragic incident that shook the world, incidents of mob lynching are still reported in the state.

Although many cases were reported in between, however, after AbhiNil another mob lynching case grabbed the attention of the state. One of the leaders of the All Assam Students’ Union, Animesh Bhuyan, and his two companions were trying to help an elderly man who fell from his vehicle in Jorhat. The people in the area misunderstood them to have hit the man after which the situation escalated turning into violence.

Animesh was beaten to death while his two companions sustained grievous injuries in the attack and were admitted to Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in critical condition.

Mostly it is noticed that people take law into their hands without informing the police due to which several people have lost their lives. As there is no stringent law as of now in the state, people get away from the heinous crime.

These incidents will be stopped only when bill introduced in the state so people taking action think before committing such crimes.

Today, even after five years of the incident, Abhijit and Nilotpal are still waiting for justice and their family is hoping the accused will be served sentence for the crime.

‘I am an Assamese’ Victims of 2018 Mob Lynching Abhi-Nil Still Await Justice
Nilotpal’s parents want court proceedings in Guwahati

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