Guwahati, June 9, 2019
It has been a year since Ittisha Sarah and Ankur Saikia lost their friends Nilotpal Das and Abhijeet Nath to a mob lynching, but they are still in disbelief over the tragedy. The “long and tardy legal procedure” is now testing their patience but they are not ready to give up. “The graph of the relentless fights on the floor of the court has never shown a downward trend in the last one year despite several interferences from outside to demotivate us or derail the process,” said Sarah.
On June 8th, 2018, two friends – Nilotpal and Abhijeet – were pulled out of their vehicle at Panjuri in Karbi Anglong district and beaten to death by a group of irate villagers with bamboo sticks, wooden planks and kicks suspecting them to be child abductors. The Assam Police arrested over 40 persons including the prime accused in relation to the case.
26-year-old Sarah, who is leading an NGO called ‘Northeast Waste Collective’ in Guwahati, met the “kind-hearted and ambitious” sound engineer Nilotpal in New Delhi in 2014. “I miss him every day, especially during my difficult times as he was always there to support me,” she says.
Saikia, a close friend of the deceased duo, tells TIME8, “It’s hard to believe how someone can be murdered in such an inhumane way. It’s been a year without them…still, at times, I feel like they will come back and everything will be normal again.”
Hours after the attack on the duo, the attackers also posted a video on Facebook. In the viral video, Nilotpal is seen pleading before his attackers with folded hands that he was an Assamese. “Don’t kill me…please don’t beat me. I am an Assamese. Believe me, I am speaking the truth. My father’s name is Gopal Chandra Das and mother’s name is Radhika Das…please let me go,” these were Nilotpal’s last words before he was killed.
The incident sent shock waves across the country. Thousands took to the streets and took part in social media campaign demanding fast-track trial in the case. People from several countries like USA, Iran, Russia, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand stood with placards, condemning the lynching.
“I and Nilotpal were schoolmates. We studied at the Kendriya Vidyalaya, Maligaon. We will continue to fight until justice is delivered. The accused must be punished,” says 30-year-old Saikia.
Witness turning hostile
Both the friends expressed resentment over the delay in the court proceedings and witnesses turning hostile.
“Witness Numal Basumatary changed his statement during the hearing held on April 30th, 2019 at the Nagaon District and Sessions Court. Basumatary said that he was pressurized by the police to give statement against the accused. Since, he changed his statement, our advocate appealed in the court for the re-examination of the witness and the court granted the appeal. The re-examination will be held soon,” Sarah says.
She added, “In January 2019, the defence advocate Sarania’s assistants visited Panjuri village and tried to manipulate the witnesses. Even, we were informed that one of the witnesses received threats from the rebel outfit Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger. The witness, who belongs to the Karbi community, is now living in fear. So, these are some of the hurdles we are facing.”
Long way to justice
Sarah says the accused including the prime accused Alfajoz Timung has shown “no regret”. Even in front of the police, they pass insulting comments like ‘Did you not see us in the television?’.
“They showed victory symbol, wished us luck and challenged us. One of them asked us to click a good picture of him and called himself Salman Khan,” Sarah said.
“We want to answer back but faith in judiciary prevents us from doing so. I believe people suffer waiting for justice due to the inefficiency on the part of the Indian judiciary. The accused enjoys the debate and cross-questioning in the court,” she says.
Sarah adds, “The Judge wanted to hold four hearings in a month. But, Sarania complained in the court that he cannot appear four times in a month. Hence, the court holds only two hearings per month.
In black and white
The Assam Police submitted 844-page chargesheet on September 1st, 2018. A total of 20 out of 47 accused named in the chargesheet have been identified so far. They are Timung, Bikram Hanse, Mensing Kro, Raikom Timung, Babu Singh Kro, Phukon Lekhte, Pres Timung, Rotneswar Terang, Onda Mech, Bidyasing Rongpi, Rupsing Kro, Babu Rongpi, Anos Timung, Inosen Engti, Sikhari Rongpi, Waresh Rongpi, Biswaram Swargiari, Dhono Mech, Dipjyoti Basumatary and Pangtheng Basumatary.
June 8th, 2018
Nilotpal, a sound engineer based in Goa, and Abhijeet, a businessman from Guwahati had gone to a picnic spot Kangthilangso in Karbi Anglong on June 8th, 2018. The duo was stopped by some villagers at Panjuri under Dokmoka Police Station on their way back, pulled out of the car and beaten up to death with bamboo sticks and kicks over suspicion of being child lifters.
The SUV in which they were travelling in was also vandalised by the angry mob. The mob attack took place at around 7.40 pm.
Assam Police said that Alfajoz allegedly had an argument with Nilotpal and Abjijeet, following which he spread the rumour that they were child lifters, to instigate the villagers. He asked the villagers to intercept the car and detain the two boys, police said.
A case was filed under Sections 302, 341, 427, 143, 144, 147, 148, 149, 109, 332 and 186 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).