In another case of mob violence triggered by social media posts, five people were lynched in Dhule district of Maharashtra on Sunday morning over suspicion that they were part of a gang of “child lifters”, police said.
The incident took place in the tribal hamlet of Rainpada in Sakri taluka, about 325 km from Mumbai. The mob reportedly comprised over 35 people, including some children.
The five victims, along with a few others, were seen getting down from a state transport bus, police said. When one of them apparently tried to speak to a girl child, the villagers, who had gathered for the weekly Sunday market, pounced on them, they said.
“The accused hail from a tribal village where WhatsApp posts pertaining to child kidnappers had gone viral. Based on the posts, the mob suspected the victims to be child lifters and thrashed them to death,” M Ramkumar, Superintendent of Police, Dhule, told The Indian Express.
“The victims were nomads who had come to seek alms at the weekly bazaar,” he said. A case has been registered against 35 people, of which 12 — all residents of Rainpada village — have been named. All have been booked under Section 302 (murder) and sections pertaining to rioting of the IPC. “We have registered a case. Of the 12 named, most of them will be formally arrested by night,” said Ramkumar.
According to Dhule police, the incident took place between 10.45 am and 11.15 am. A call was made to Dhule control room and Pimpalner police station at 11.10 am. By 12.10 pm, a team of 10 policemen was sent to the spot.
“While the call was made at 11.10 am, it took time to mobilise the police party as many of the policemen were on leave. A team left by noon, but since the hamlet is deep inside a jungle area, about 30 kms from the police station, with bad road connectivity, it took the team about an hour to reach the spot. By then, the victims had been lynched and their bodies were lying in the panchayat office, which had blood stains,” said an officer from Pimpalner police station, where a case has been registered.
“A team headed by an Inspector-rank officer rushed to the spot. The team tried to pacify the mob, but they attacked the police instead. Four-five policemen have sustained injuries and were treated at the local civic hospital,” said the officer.
Purported video clips of the incident showed the victims being thrashed with slippers, before being dragged to the Rainpada gram panchayat office, where they were beaten up with sticks. Some minors can also be seen punching, kicking and dragging the victims by their collars.
In one video clip, a victim can be seen pleading for help, while the bloodied bodies of the other four victims are lying on the floor. The person shooting the video can be heard warning the victim, “tujhe marega phirse (I will hit you again)”.
According to police, the victims have been identified as Dadarao Shankarao Bhosale, his brother Bharat, Bharat Malve, Aappa Ingole and Raju Bhosale. While Raju hailed from Gondwan village of Karnataka, the others were residents of Mangalwedha in Solapur district. The bodies have been taken to Pimpalner hospital.
“As per primary information, all the four persons from Solapur belong to the Davari Gosavi community, which is basically a nomadic community. People from this community have very small landholdings and they traditionally seek alms as they go from village to village. We believe that had gone to Dhule for the same purpose, when they were attacked,” said an officer from Mangalwedha police station in Solapur.
Meanwhile, with the situation tense in the area, additional forces from neighbouring districts have been deployed. Inspector General (Nashik Range) Chhering Dorje has also reached the spot.
In June, two persons were lynched in Chandgaon village, in Vajipur taluka of Aurangabad, on the suspicion of being robbers. That case, however, was not lined to social media posts. Eight people were arrested in this connection.
The Maharashtra Police has asked its district police and commissionarates to submit reports on such incidents over the last three months. “There is a need to spread awareness about rumours being spread by mischievous elements to create panic among masses that a group of people are moving & trying to commit crimes like kidnapping of children for begging, organ harvesting etc. Such rumour mongering is creating scare among masses who, at times, are resorting to attack on finding strangers. Incidents of such attacks leading to grievous injury and death have been reported from many units in the state, and it may escalate, leading to law and order problem,” said an advisory issued by the Maharashtra Police.
“Take adequate precaution to prevent such unfortunate incidents. Also, try to zero in on the source of such rumour and persons behind it so that action could be taken on such elements,” it said.— With ENS inputs, Pune