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Indian Police Open Fire on Mob After Rape Suspect Is Pulled from Jail and Lynched

The crowd broke into a prison and stripped the accused rapist naked before beating him to death and hanging his body from a clock tower.

by Liz Fields
Mar 6 2015, 4:35pm

Photo via AP

Law enforcement officers shot live ammunition and tear gas at a riotous crowd of several thousand people after they stormed a high-security jail compound in India's northeastern state of Nagaland, dragged out a rape suspect, and lynched him.

One person was killed and at least 28 injured in the melee on Thursday. A coalition of student and rights organizations had rallied through the streets of Dimapur earlier that morning, calling for Syed Sirf Khan, a 35-year-old Muslim businessman accused of raping a local woman on February 24, to be given the death penalty.

It is unclear if members of that same crowd participated in the killing later in the afternoon. A photo shows a group of mostly young men dragging Khan out of the prison. The mob reportedly stormed the compound and began breaking open cell locks in search of the man, according to local media.

Related: 'India's Daughter' Director Wants Debate to Shift from Censorship to Sexual Violence

Armed police fired intermittent rounds at the mob after they entered the prison, but were said to have stood by while the suspect was stripped naked, beaten, and paraded through the streets. The state's chief minister, T. R. Zeliang, later said that "security personnel at the jail were overpowered by the mob."

Khan is believed to have died from the beatings as he was being dragged around. His body was eventually hauled to Dimapur's Clock Tower Junction, where it was strung up, the Nagaland Times reported.

Clashes again broke out when police went to retrieve the body, prompting officers to open fire and lob tear gas shells to disperse the crowd. Businesses were looted and several cars were set alight amid unrest that lasted nearly three hours.

Related: Women Feel Unsafe as Threat of Sexual Violence Pervades Everyday Life in India

Local schools, shops, and banks were closed following the violence. The district's police chief Meren Jamir told Reuters that the authorities had imposed a curfew late Thursday that remained in effect on Friday because the situation was "still tense" in the mostly Christian area.

Rape is a hot-button issue in India, where a woman reports an attack every 21 minutes. Other crimes against women including domestic violence, kidnapping, molestation, and acid attacks, with some 309,546 such crimes reported in 2013, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

This week, protests against rape and violence against women flared up after the Indian government banned a BBC documentary about the particularly brutal and high-profile rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi in 2012.

Related: Sexual Violence Against Women on India's Election Agenda, But Not Really

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter:@lianzifields

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