Mob Violence: Rise in lynching, justice delayed for victims

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Dokmoka lynching victims Nilutpol Das and Abhijit Nath’s fathers express their views to Pratidin Time on the delay in justice for their sons and other victims.

All acts of violence carried out are nefarious, depraved and unacceptable. Mob lynching is a debased act of barbarism and in recent times Assam has seen an increasing number of heinous mob violence that seems to be turning into a norm.

While committing mob violence, the mob doesn’t identify with the creed, caste, gender or race neither can the causes of one incident of lynching can be compared with the other. Circumstances that lead a mob to commit an act of violence are several, however, one aspect remains the same, the persons who have been lynched, their lives along with that of their families will never be the same.

Last month despite a nationwide lockdown due to the spread of the deadly Corona Virus, Assam experienced two heinous mob lynching cases. On May 29, Sanatan Deka, a local vegetable vendor from Monahkuchi village near in Kamrup district’s Hajo, about 35 km northwest of Guwahati was lynched to death by five persons for hitting their car with his bicycle. So far four accused has been arrested. In another shocking incident, Debashis Gogoi a 23-year-old youth from Nakachari Milgaon near Mariani town succumbed to injuries at Jorhat Medical College and Hospital on May 23. The victim was beaten to death while he was returning with a friend from a picnic spot. Witnesses at the crime scene stated the incident occurred after an accident happened on a road to a picnic spot through the Gabharu Parbat Tea Estate. Apparently, the incident escalated when both the victims hit two women plantation workers.

A mob lynching incident that shook Assam in 2018, was the brutal lynching of Abhijit Nath and Nilotpal Das (Abhi-Nil). Today marks the two-year death anniversary of Abhi-Nil. On this unfortunate day, the boys were travelling to Dokmoka in Karbi Anglong district and through rumours on WhatsApp they were suspected as child kidnappers (Xopa Dhora). This age-old myth and ignorance of the locals claimed their lives. They were pelted with stones, beaten and videos were shot where both of them begged for their lives. Recently, a court in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district convicted twelve accused for the lynching and death of an 18-year-old youth seven years ago.

This gruesome incident led to massive mass protests across the state demanding immediate justice and the trial of 71 accused. However, two years later Abhi-Neel awaits justice. Such delays are a disappointment for not just the families of the victims but citizens across the country – the common man loses faith in the judicial system, governance and the law and order process.

In an exclusive interview with Pratidin Time, Gopal Chandra Das, father of Nilutpal Das, expresses his views on different factors that need serious introspection from different sections of the society. Das commented, “A fast track trial was supposed to be carried out, so we thought justice too will be served at the earliest. However, that didn’t seem to be the case.” Das explained initially there was an uproar across the state for seeking immediate justice as there was sufficient evidence to prove it. Also, social organisations, activists and the people of Assam came forward to support them. This proved in favour of the victims as the court proceeding went smoothly. However, after a few months the entire proceedings started to become irregular and the public memory also seemed to fade away.

When the lynching case of Abhijeet Nath and Nilotpal Das had gone to trial, it seemed like an open-and-shut case. There were many witnesses; the case was expected to be in favour of the victims. But, the trial is still trundling. “A turning point that made the case weak was when witnesses turned hostile,” Das added. Das tells, “There are around two witnesses who are willing to speak but much can’t be expected of them as well.” Initially, the witnesses had appeared at Diphu court and they spoke in favour of the victims but later changed their statements at the hearing in Nagaon court.

Moreover, due to lockdown, nothing has proceeded further in the case. On June 9, there is a hearing on the objection of bail for the accused but it is uncertain a hearing will happen. So far the accused have pleaded for bail thrice.

Abhijit Nath’s father Ajit Kumar Nath expressing his grief commented, “Justice delayed is justice denied and this is what has been served to both the boys and other victims as well. I am hopeful that the judiciary will be fair towards us. It has been a difficult journey. We appreciate everyone who has supported us so far but the fast track trial should move to a fast track court and witnesses turning hostile have been a setback in the development of the case. We believe the witnesses have been instigated to change their statements.”

Both fathers believe that public support is essential. The public should appeal and request or even file a PIL to the concerned authorities to fast track all such cases to a fast track court. Das also believes proper education and awareness campaigns on superstitions and myths, especially in underdeveloped areas. A recent update shows human rights activist Dr Dibyajyoti Saikia will lead the legal battle for justice of Abhi-Neel. In a report published by Northeast Now, Saikia said, “How can some witnesses give fabricated statements in the court? The government and the police have a moral responsibility to deal with the mob lynching case firmly.” If the government does not take a firm step, it will be difficult to put an end to such incidents.

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