On Thursday night, three men were lynched by a mob in Maharashtra’s Palghar district after allegedly suspecting them to be child-kidnappers and organ harvesters. The three were driving to a funeral in Surat when a group of villagers in Gadchinchle, a tribal village in a remote part of Palghar, stopped their car and attacked them with stones, logs and axes.
So far 101 people have been arrested and nine minor detained in connection with the crime. Zeeshan Sheikh recaps the incident.
Palghar lynching: Where did the incident occur?
The incident occurred in Gadchinchale village, located in Dahanu Taluka of the tribal dominated Palghar district, which is 140 Kms North of Mumbai. As per the 2011 Census, the village has a population of 1,298 residents of which 93 per cent are from the Scheduled Tribes.
The village lies on the border that Maharashtra shares with the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, which is 30 Kms away.
When did the incident occur?
The incident occurred on the night of April 16 when two ascetics, 70-year-old Mahant Kalpavruksha Giri and 35- year-old Sushilgiri Maharaj, who stayed in an ashram in Kandivali, decided to go to Surat to attend a funeral. The two subsequently hired a car driven by Nilesh Yelgade (30) to travel from Kandivali till Surat. In an attempt to avoid being stopped on their journey, the three appeared to have taken the back roads of Palghar district to enter Gujarat rather than use the Mumbai-Gujarat highway. The three were, however, stopped by a sentry of the forest department close to Gadchinchle village. While they were speaking with the sentry, the three were accosted by a vigilante group and assaulted.
History of attacks on travellers in the area
Over the past few days, local villagers had formed vigilante groups after rumours that organ harvesting gangs, child lifters and thieves were operating in these areas at night. The rumours had led to two cases of assault in nearby areas. Last Wednesday, local activist Dr Vishwas Valvi and his team were attacked when they had gone to the tribal dominated Sarni village to supply provisions to tribals during the lockdown. A police contingent that was sent to rescue the team was also pelted with stones. The incident happened in the jurisdiction of the Kasa Police Station under whose limits the lynching also took place. Ten days back a police team led by an Additional SP, which had ventured into the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, was also attacked by local villagers.
Role of Police
Even as the group was being attacked phone calls were made to the Kasa Police Station, located 35 Kms away. As per the official account a team of four police officers is said to have reached the spot and tried to pacify the mob. By then the mob had overturned the car in which the three were travelling and even threatened the policemen. Videos, shot by bystanders, show the three men cowering in the overturned car, which was being pelted with stones, wooden logs and axes.
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Subsequently, another police contingent reached the spot. The 12 policemen managed to rescue the three men and made them sit in two separate police vehicles. “However, the frenzied mob of around 400 people attacked the police vehicles. Some policemen were injured as well,” Palghar Collector Kailas Shinde had said on Friday. The mob managed to pull out the three from the police vehicle and they were subsequently lynched. Two policemen suffered minor injuries.
However, videos that have subsequently emerged from the lynching show police standing mutely even as the crowd attacks the three. In one particular clip, a lone policemen can be seen escorting a cowering victim to a police vehicle. In the background a number of lathi-wielding cops can be seen. As the two move towards the vehicle around five to six individuals attack the accused in front of the cop. The man is then seen trying to hold on to the policeman who subsequently pushes him away. The victim is then attacked by the mob.
How many have been arrested so far
The police so far arrested 101 people and 9 minors. The adults are currently in 12-day police custody while the minors have been sent to a children’s home. The state has also said that an inquiry will be held to examine the conduct of the policemen as well. “We will investigate the decisions taken by the officers and inquiry will be conducted into their behaviour during the incident,” Palghar District Collector Kailas Shinde said.
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