Kangaroo courts in the 21st century


By Patricia Mukhim

A man alleged to have raped a Naga woman was lynched by a mob in Dimapur and his naked picture circulated via WhatsApp. This is gruesome and shocking since the rape is 'alleged' to have been committed and has not been established beyond reasonable doubt. On social media the rapist, A Muslim resident of Karimganj in Assam is labelled an Illegal Bangladeshi Muslim (IBI). In fact pejorative posts of all kinds against the IBI appear on a daily basis on Facebook and one would like to conclude that the lynching incident is a cumulative outburst with Facebook responsible for the crowd-sourcing.

A rapist is a criminal who faces a death sentence or life imprisonment. An alleged rapist is an under-trial prisoner. In a civilised nation we cannot have kangaroo courts and lynch mobs delivering instant justice. And if every rapist is to be lynched then there are many in Nagaland who should face the same fate. Are we suggesting that no Naga male has raped a Naga woman/girl? So why this selective justice? And why communalise crime?

The ability to maintain law and order in Nagaland has always been suspect. That a mob could take the law in its hands and pull an under-trial prisoner out in the open and lynch him, tells us that the Police were immobile and lost control of the situation. Is this because Nagaland Police has never had to tackle mob violence since summary justice, anyway, is served by insurgent outfits? It is a case of complete failure of the police to maintain law and order. So what happens in such a situation where law and order has been hugely compromised? The Centre cannot sit back and watch things go completely out of control. The army has been asked to take control of the volatile situation since shops and other establishments belonging to non-tribals are under attack.

It is absurd therefore that some Delhi-Based activists claiming to represent the entire North Eastern population should on national media, cast aspersions on the army deployment and all but endorse that the lynch mob was right. Being a Bengali speaking Muslim in India's North East has become a dangerous thing. Such a person can be labelled a Bangladeshi and killed at random. Emotions run high the moment the word Bangladeshi is pronounced. Granted that there is large scale influx from Bangladesh into the North Eastern states but how can all those who have lived in this region since the 1950s and many who are born here when Bangladesh was not even created, continue to be called Bangladeshis? .

According to confirmed sources the two brothers of the rape accused are serving in the Indian Army. His father also served in Indian Army. So how can he be an IBI?

There are many who have taken the side of the lynch mob on Facebook perhaps triggered by the BBC documentary showing an unrepentant Mukesh Singh who was part of the gang involved in the Nirbhaiya rape case of December 16, 2012, spouting out his obtuse views on the role of women, which has angered women across India and hence the thumbs up for kangaroo courts. But if we decry what the khap panchayats do we cannot also say that the lynch mob of Dimapur was right in what they did.

As for those who filmed the disgraceful, naked picture of the alleged rapist and spread it around, one can only say that the person/persons have lost all trace of humanity and sanity.