Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Wednesday released the names of 101 individuals who have been arrested for the lynching of three men in Palghar last week, and reiterated that there was no communal angle to the crime.
Deshmukh accused the opposition in the state of indulging in “communal politics”, and mocked their claims as “Mungeri Lal ke haseen sapne” (daydreaming).
After two sadhus — Kalpruksh Giri and Chikne Maharaj — from an ashram in Kandivili, Mumbai, and their driver Nilesh Telgade were lynched in the presence of police in Gadchinchle village in Palghar on April 16 night, allegations were made on social media that the killers were Muslim. A video of the lynching surfaced on April 19 and quickly went viral.
“I have put out the list of 101 people… not one among them is Muslim. While the incident took place, someone in the video said ‘oye bas, oye bas… now stop, now stop… however, it was twisted as… Shoaib bas (Shoaib, stop)… It was given a communal colour and then communal politics was played using this,” Deshmukh said during an interaction on Facebook.
Over the past few days, both the home minister and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray have said the victims belonged to the same community as the attackers. Deshmukh spoke about the alleged misrepresentation of the video earlier on Wednesday, too.
In the morning, the home minister posted the names of the 101 accused on Twitter, with the message:
“The list of the 101 arrested in the #Palghar incident. Especially sharing for those who were trying to make this a communal issue.”
In another tweet, he said: “Palghar mob lynching is a grotesque incident which happened due to rumours on social media about child kidnappers & thieves prowling in the area. A high level inquiry is going on & meanwhile people are requested not to fall for rumours & verify the facts from trusted sources.”
Deshmukh also posted a link to a report on the incident by the fact-checking site Boomlive, which included screenshots of WhatsApp messages about childlifters and thieves, which were circulated in villages in the area before the incident.
On Wednesday, Deshmukh said the incident had taken place in an Adivasi area, and had been provoked by rumours of children being abducted. “Within eight hours of the incident, the police had arrested 101 people involved in the lynching from nearby forests and mountains. A special IG is investigating, and the matter has been transferred to the CID,” he said.
The minister added: “…We know we all in Maharashtra are fighting corona… our policemen, doctors, ASHA workers, nurses… It is very unfortunate that at such a time, communal politics is being played. This is not the time to do politics but to come together and fight corona. However, even in this situation some are having ‘Mungeri Lal ke haseen sapne’… It is unfortunate… I request everyone to come together and help fight corona.”