GUWAHATI, India (REUTERS) – Indian police arrested 22 people on Sunday over last week’s storming of a high security prison in the northeast of the country and subsequent lynching of a rape suspect, an act of mob violence that sparked protests in a region divided on religious and ethnic lines.
Several thousand people in restive Nagaland state attacked the prison to drag out a rape suspect, beat him to death and tied the body to a clock tower on Thursday, forcing authorities to impose a curfew to restore order.
“Twenty-two people have been arrested for rioting and attacking the prison complex,” state’s top police officer L.L. Doungel told Reuters.
Muslims in Nagaland and the neighbouring state of Assam protested against the lynching on Saturday and authorities put a freeze on internet and SMS phone messaging services after videos of the attack surfaced.
Police said they were struggling to identify people directly involved in the murder of Syed Farid Khan, 35, who had been accused of raping a 19-year-old Naga tribal woman multiple times.
Khan’s brother linked the murder to ethnic tensions within Nagaland, whose indigenous groups have for decades accused a growing number of Muslim migrants from Bangladesh of illegally grabbing their fertile land.
The family accused police of falsely implicating Khan in the rape to try to root out Muslims from Nagaland.
The lynching also follows an outpouring of anger in India over violence against women.
Khan’s lynching coincided with controversy over a government order to ban the broadcasting of a documentary about the fatal gang rape in December 2012 of a young student in New Delhi that caused shock within India and around the world.