3 Indian officials suspended after lynching of rape suspect

AP News
Posted: Mar 07, 2015 8:21 AM
3 Indian officials suspended after lynching of rape suspect

GUWAHATI, India (AP) — The government of northeastern India's Nagaland state has suspended three officials and deployed paramilitary soldiers after a mob stormed a high-security jail, dragged away a man accused of rape and then lynched him, officials said Saturday.

Police have launched a search for several men who mobilized thousands of people who broke into the jail in Dimapur city on Thursday and seized the rape suspect, whom they also accused of being an illegal migrant from Bangladesh. They pelted him with stones and beat him to death.

One person was killed and several others were injured when police fired to disperse the mob, said a Dimapur police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with department policy.

Shops and businesses were closed in Dimapur on Saturday and paramilitary soldiers patrolled the city, which remained under curfew.

The killing of the man — who was arrested Feb. 24 on suspicion of raping a local woman — has caused concern across India, where there is increasing public anger over sexual violence against women.

The incident has sparked protests in the neighboring state of Assam, where the man, identified as Farid Khan, was from.

Protesters set up roadblocks in Assam on Saturday and for a while stopped trucks carrying goods and other vehicles from heading to Nagaland.

"There was a roadblock near Lahorijan in Assam's Karbi Anglong district, but the police have since cleared the blockade," said Assam's Inspector General of Police S.N. Singh.

Assam's government has alerted police stations across the state to be vigilant against possible retaliation on Naga people living in Assam, Singh said. Ethnic Nagas are a majority in Nagaland, and some have migrated to other parts of India.

Late Friday, Nagaland state authorities suspended the district magistrate of Dimapur, the city's police superintendent and the jail's warden, said Nagaland's top elected official, Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang.

Federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh has called for an investigation into the storming of the jail, and human rights groups have warned against vigilantes taking the law into their hands.

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Amnesty International demanded that the lynching be investigated and members of the mob brought to justice.

"This is a serious lapse in the criminal justice system and the Nagaland government must ensure that every person who was part of the mob is brought to justice," Shemeer Babu, program director of Amnesty International India, said in a statement Saturday.

"Failure to do so will send the message that anyone can commit outrageous abuses and attempt to justify them as an expression of public anger," Babu said.

Thursday's killing was also likely linked to tensions in Nagaland over an influx of migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. Several local groups accuse the migrants of taking away their land and jobs and have been protesting in recent weeks.