A 42-year-old woman died after she was assaulted by a mob that suspected her of being a child-lifter, at Sekendra village of Murshidabad district on Tuesday. Police said the woman was mentally challenged and unlikely to have been a child-lifter. Otera Bibi, the victim, was living with her parents in Mithipur-Panagarh village, about eight kilometres from the site of the incident, since her husband abandoned her due to her illness in 2016, said police sources. On Monday, she left home and did not return that night.
“The family did not search for her because they were used to her disappearing for a night and returning the next morning,” said police source.
On Tuesday morning, she was at Sekendra village. She allegedly entered the house of one Dilip Ghosh who alerted his neighbours when he saw her close to his minor daughter. The village has been on the edge ever since 14-year-old Fultushi Ghosh went missing from her home on June 21, said the police.
Soon a mob gathered and assaulted her. Some locals claimed she was tied to a vehicle and beaten with sticks and pelted with stones.
The police rushed to the spot when they heard of the incident and managed to pull her out and take her to Jangipur sub-divisional hospital where she succumbed to her injuries.
“We have picked up a few people from the village and have also collected video footage. We will first verify and then arrest the culprits. Raids are on. I think there have been some genuine cases where children have gone missing. These cases may have triggered the rumours which led to the unfortunate incident,” said Anghshuman Saha, Additional SP (Lalbagh).
In January, a 60-year-old man was lynched in Burdwan after villagers mistook him for a child-lifter.
“I think such rumours are very dangerous and people in rural areas easily fall prey to it. We are monitoring the situation and anyone found spreading such rumours will not be spared. We will also call a meeting at the district level to discuss how to sensitise villagers about such rumours,” said a senior police officer.
Seven people were recently lynched in Jharkhand on suspicion of being child-lifters.