SEVEN PERSONS, including two brothers returning from work linked to the Swachh Bharat campaign, were beaten to death by mobs in two attacks over the last 24 hours in tribal-dominated areas near Jamshedpur following rumours of gangs involved in kidnapping children being active in the region.
Jharkhand Police said two other persons were killed similarly on May 12 and May 13 in the neighbouring Jadugora and Asanboni areas.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Kolhan DIG Prabhat Kumar said, “The lynchings took place because of rumours of a child-lifting gang in the area even though no such case has been reported. We don’t know how this rumour began and who started it.”
Police said members of the mob involved in the attacks were from the tribal community.
On Friday, residents in different areas near Jamshedpur in East Singbhum district and Seraikela-Kharsawan district, where Thursday’s attacks took place, staged protests against the killings, downing shutters in shops and blocking roads. In Jugsalai market, a tribal was assaulted and his bicycle set ablaze.
Three of those killed in the first incident at Rajnagar on Thursday morning were identified as Sheikh Sajju (25), Sheikh Siraj (26) and Naim (35). Another member of this group, Sheikh Halim (28), was initially reported missing but his body was found in the locality on Friday, said police.
Family members of the four have refused to accept their bodies from the morgue and demanded Rs 25 lakh as compensation from Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das. They refused to accept the Rs 2 lakh offered by the state government on Friday.
In the second incident on Thursday afternoon, police said, Gautam Verma (27), his brother Vikas Verma (25), and their friend Gangesh Gupta were beaten to death in front of their 80-year-old grandmother as they were returning to Jamshedpur. A fourth member of the group, Uttam Verma, the elder brother of Gautam and Vikas, suffered injuries in the attack, police said.
Speaking to The Indian Express at a hospital in Jamshedpur, Uttam said, “They were standing on the road with swords and other arms. When police arrived, my brother got into the police jeep. But the mob dragged him out and killed him in front of my eyes. Our 80-year-old grandmother, who was with us, was made to watch, too. The police just stood there and did nothing.”
Uttam said they had recently started a toilet installation business and were in the area to identify spots to place hoardings as part of the Centre’s flagship cleanliness initiative.
The reason why the first group was visiting the area was still not known, said police.
In the first incident, police said, Sajju, Siraj, Naim and Halim were visiting villages under the Bagbeda police station when they were chased for close to two hours by a mob and attacked in Rajnagar.
”They had started their journey on Wednesday night from Haldipokhar in East Singhbhum for Rajnagar in Seraikela-Kharsawan district. They were stopped at Sobhapur village by the mob, which alleged that they were child-lifters. When Rajnagar police station officer-in-charge Tuleshwar Kushwaha and other policemen arrived at the spot, the mob set their jeep ablaze and heckled them,” said police sources.
“While Sajju, Siraj and Halim managed to flee, the mob beat Naim with stones and wooden sticks. Another police team took Naim to a hospital in Seraikela where he succumbed to injuries,” said sources.
According to police, the mob later caught hold of Sajju and Siraj at the house of a local resident, Sunil Mahto at Shosomauli village in Rajnagar. “They lynched the two despite resistance from a group of locals,” said police sources.
In the second incident, the Verma family and their friends were attacked at Bagpeda.
”Their car was stopped by a mob at Goradih village. They were asked to show their ID cards. While Uttam produced his Aadhar card, the three others had left them at home. Uttam called his home and asked someone to get the ID cards. But then, the mob started accusing them of being child-lifters and beat them to death,” said police sources.
Last week, Nikhil Tudu and Mohammad Naseem were killed by mobs in similar attacks.
Following the killings, Jamshedpur Rural Police issued advisories to all police stations in the area to prevent the spread of rumours on children being abducted.
Speaking to The Indian Express, East Singhbhum Rural SP Shailendra Barnwal said, “Local police have started spreading awareness against the rumours using loudspeakers in the villages. All DySPs and police stations in-charge have been asked to initiate night patrolling.”
Jamshedpur SSP Anoop T Mathew said, “The rumours started some time ago and spread through social media.”