Syed Sarifuddin Khan, 35, a father of a three-year-old, married to a Naga woman of the Sema tribe in Nagaland allegedly raped another Naga woman of the same tribe. Little did he know that this allegation could bring him a kind of death that would send chills down the spines of many people. Apart from being accused of committing a rape, Khan was also accused of being an alien â an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh.
So far, both the allegations have not been borne out, which has only left everyone wondering whether Khan actually became a victim of the rage of some indigenous Nagas against infiltration by Bangladeshi nationals.
On 23 February, Khan had allegedly taken the complainant to a hotel at Dimapur in Nagaland, forced her to consume alcohol and raped her.
What followed after Khan was arrested was shocking. On 5 March, groups of protestors, including students in school uniform, gathered in the hundreds, broke into a prison, dragged Khan out on to the streets, stripped him naked, tied him to a motorcycle and dragged him for some distance before beating him to death â all in full public view.
That was not all. The mob tied Khanâs body to a clock tower right in the heart of the city. Some protestors could be seen clicking photos and shooting videos of the macabre sight.
Soon after, certain facts emerged and it became known that Khanâs brother was a Havildar in the Indian Army and his father retired from the Indian Air Force. The family had been living for decades in the Karimganj district of Assam.
âMy brother has been made a scapegoat,â says a devastated Jamal Khan, a brother of the deceased. âHe was framed. There is no evidence of rape. The police are not giving the medical report. They have used my brother to establish that illegal migrants are causing crime. They have accused my brother of being an illegal migrant but we are Indians.â
âI am a havildar in the Army,â a visibly agitated Jamal Khan continues. âThey have treated my brother like an animal.â
The family blamed the Nagaland government and police for failing to handle the crisis.
The allegation of rape has not been backed by any evidence, except for the statements made by the alleged victim.
âHe forced me to accept money, so I took Rs 5,000 but later I handed it over to the police. He also forced me to drink,â the victim told Tehelka when this correspondent met her at her Dimapur home.
The CCTVÂ footage of the hotel on 23 February, the day of the alleged rape, did not bear out the alleged victimâs version. In the footage, the woman appeared to be relaxed in Khanâs company.
Jamal claimed that she had asked his brother to cough up a sum of Rupees two lakh, failing which she would complain of rape.
Some civil society groups believe that this episode was used by a handful of people to address their concerns about illegal immigration.