Dahanu MLA Vinod Nikole has claimed that the police’s failure to assure tribal communities in remote villages of its presence and quell rumours about organ harvesters and child kidnappers eventually led to the lynching of three men last Thursday.
Nikole of the CPI (M) said that these rumours have been rife in villages in his constituency for the past fortnight. “Villagers have not been sleeping at night fearing that outsiders will rob their homes or kidnap their children to harvest their kidneys. There have been no such instances but residents of many villages are so scared that they have been patrolling their villages every night to spot suspicious passersby,” he said.
Nikole accused the police of not doing enough to dispel the rumours. “Had the police made their presence known in these villages at night, villagers would have been convinced that they had nothing to fear,” he claimed.
Nikole further alleged that the Palghar district police’s outreach following several attacks on passing vehicles last week had not been successful. Two days before two sadhus and their driver were lynched at Gadchinchle village, the police had managed to rescue two doctors and their driver from a mob of 200-250 people at Sarni Patilpada village 60 kilometres away. The occupants of the car and the police party, both escaped heavy stone pelting without sustaining serious injuries.
Nikole said that the source of the rumours is yet to be identified. “The initial days of the lockdown went by peacefully. But since the past two weeks, we have been noticing rumours about thieves and kidnappers being circulated through WhatsApp. At every food distribution drive, we have been trying to persuade villagers not to believe them and assuring them that they have nothing to be afraid of,” he said.
The MLA also accused the police of failing to detect the car driven by Nilesh Yelgade (30) and transporting sadhus, Mahant Kalpavruksha Giri (70) and Sushilgiri Maharaj (35), over its 130 km-long journey. They were eventually turned back by a forest guard at the border of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, where a mob of 500 villagers attacked them. Of the policemen at the spot, Assistant Police Inspector Anandrao Kale and Sub Inspector Sudhir Katare have been suspended for failing to protect the deceased. “The car must have passed multiple police checks-posts in Mumbai and Palghar but was still allowed to proceed. Inside Palghar, there are a lot of interior roads connecting villages. It is easy to avoid being caught by the police if you stick to these roads,” he said.
The Mumbai Police claimed that no vehicle leaves the city through the exit in Dahisar on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway without being stopped at one of seven checkpoints placed there to enforce the lockdown. However, a senior Mumbai Police official said that it is not possible to verify each civilian vehicle. “We have to make exceptions when someone says they are going to a funeral or to visit a doctor. It is simply not possible to check and verify every passing car, especially at night. It is not easy to enforce the lockdown completely,” added the official.
Meanwhile the CPI (M) has said that it will begin legal proceedings against several BJP spokespersons for claiming that some of the accused in the case are CPI (M) activists.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines