Even as protests rage across Assam, demanding justice for the two young men who were lynched by a mob in Karbi Anglong district, the family of one of the victims has asked people to refrain from participating in the “politics of hate”. In a public appeal published in a local Assamese daily, Radhika Das and Gopal Chandra Das, the parents of Nilotpal Das, asked the people of the state to exercise restraint and not to fall prey to fake news.
“A group of miscreants are responsible for the incidents and we hope that they are punished,” reads the appeal. “At the same time, we hope that no innocents are harassed for it.”
The family also called upon the government to ensure that people did not succumb to superstitions. “We hope at this juncture everyone will contribute to maintain calm in the state,” the appeal added.
The plea comes after protests over the incident threatened to take on a communal hue. Abhijeet Nath and Nilotpal Das were beaten to death by a mob in Karbi Anglong – a district named after the majority tribe in the area, the Karbis – on suspicion of being child abductors. A video apparently taken by someone in the mob shows Das pleading to his attackers not to kill him, he was Assamese.
The people arrested so far by the police for being part of the mob belong to a range of communities.
A communal backlash
But there have also been reports of Karbis being targeted in various parts of the state. In Nagaon on Sunday, a group of youth leaders from the Congress’ students wing, National Students Union of India, were caught on camera trying to intimidate people belonging to the community. Meanwhile, a section of a protest march in Guwahati turned violent with some protesters raising slogans against the Karbi community. On Monday, two youths in Guwahati allegedly racially abused two Ahom women, mistaking them for Karbis.
Local reports also claimed that 40 members of the cleaning staff at the Jorhat Medical College Hospital in Upper Assam had left for their homes in Karbi Anglong district, fearing for their lives. “Miscreants” had threatened the staff with dire consequences if they did not leave, the report said.
On social media, there have been several cases of hate speech against the community and communally charged unverified news.
Police and tribal bodies call for restraint
In another public notice issued by the Assam Police on Tuesday, the department said it was keeping a keen eye on people spreading rumours online with an intent to disturb the social fabric of the state. The police have so far arrested 19 people for spreading such rumours.
Meanwhile, reacting to reports of attacks on Karbis, several tribal organisations in the state held a press conference on Monday, pleading with members of the public not to target innocent people from the community and give the incident a “communal colour”.
Aditya Khakhlari, convener of Coordination Committee of the Tribal Organisations of Assam, an umbrella group of tribes in the state, said: “The entire Karbi community should not be blamed or targeted because of the incident. It was barbaric and unfortunate. But targeting the entire Karbi community to avenge the killings will be equally unfortunate. This may lead to more social unrest. We appeal to everyone to show restraint.”