Guwahati, June 8, 2019
The light pink coloured room wears a deserted look. The windows are closed with cream-coloured hung curtains. There is a bed, a stand fan, music instruments, a few artworks adorning the walls and corners of the room. There is also a hand-made lamp, which has not been lit for around a year now.
In the last 12 months, there have been new additions to the room. Framed photographs gifted in memory of Nilotpal Das, who was beaten to death by a group of irate villagers in Karbi Anglong district of Assam on June 8th, 2018 over suspicion of being a child-lifter.
Gopal Chandra Das, father of Bubu, as Nilotpal was fondly called by his parents, stares at the room. His face shows no expression. He sighs and fighting back tears says, “As a father, I would want my son to live forever…I was aware of what was waiting for me in Karbi Anglong. But somewhere in my heart, I was hoping for a miracle. I was expecting him to be alive…however, I saw two bodies lying on a table in the police station. That day, I died too. I am taking breaths to see the killers of my son get punished.”
A sound engineer Nilotpal and his friend Abjijeet Nath 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, wooden planks and kicks.
“Bubu was a good-hearted person…he was different. I am not saying this because I am his father…you can ask his friends too. He was not a family person. He was a detached soul but loved us a lot. He always told us that he was born for a bigger purpose in life, to contribute to society,” Gopal shares, who retired as a senior audit official in 2011.
The one storey residence of Nilotpal, located at Navagraha Road, Silpukhuri, is now known to all in the locality. There is a naamghar on the premises. “No father should go through what I have experienced. That day, before he left for Karbi Anglong I had asked him to go in a group. Since morning I was feeling a bit uneasy. He was stubborn and asked me to relax as the tribal people are simple people,” he said.
It was around 10 pm when Nilotpal’s father received a “disturbing call” from his daughter, who lives in Dehradun. “She said Deuta, Bubu is serious, please save him. I was surprised and demanded to know what happened to him. My heart was racing and I could sense something is wrong. I was not feeling well. I wondered what would have happened to him…he had just gone there to record natural sounds,” Gopal says.
An hour later, he received a call from Abhijeet’s father. “I was at the Dispur Police Station. At 2 am, we started our journey to Karbi Anglong. I knew what lies ahead…but as a parent, as a father…I was praying for a miracle. I wanted my son to be alive…in whatever way…I was wondering what will I say to his mother. I didn’t have the courage to look into her face. I avoided her ever since I got the call from my daughter. Nilotpal was close to his mother. When I saw his lifeless body, my world came crashing down…,” he says as his voice choked and eyes welled up with tears.
On June 9th, 2018, a video went viral on social media platforms. In the video, Nilotpal, sporting rastafarian dreadlocks and face covered with blood, 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 Das’ last words before he was killed.
“It was only at 12 pm on June 9th, 2018, I broke the news of our son’s death to my wife. I couldn’t tell her anything more. I asked her to call our daughter and disconnected the phone. I didn’t face her the entire day till I cremated our son. I had to be strong. As a father who brought him to the world…had to cremate him. Nobody can take away, share or understand our pain. I had three children – two sons and one daughter. Our one son is gone forever,” he further shares.
Gopal reveals that Nilotpal was a nature and animal lover and believed in the “religion of Humanity”. Based in the coastal state of Goa, he also worked as an event co-ordinator across the country. “He loved travelling to faraway places and liked spending time amid the serenity of nature. Had I knew he would become a victim of mistaken identity, I would have never allowed him to go to Karbi Anglong. He enjoyed cooking and was good at it. He used to make art pieces. In his usual quirky self, he would often tell his mother that he would cook for the family. He would cook the entire meal and then wash the utensils too,” Nilotpal’s father says.
Post the incident, thousands of protestors demanding speedy justice against the lynching of two youths staged demonstrations across the country. On September 1st, 2018, the Assam Police filed an 800-page charge sheet in the mob lynching case. Forty-eight people were named in the charge sheet. The charges were framed under Sections 302, 341, 142, 427, 143/144(I), 147 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code(IPC).
“The government must formulate a Bill against superstitious beliefs and practices. I and my wife are living to see the culprits punished. My son was loved by all. The day Nilotpal died, the wife of one of his friends gave birth to a baby boy. They have named the child as Neil. Our loss can never be compensated…our Bubu, our Neil is gone,” says Gopal.