The Dhule Police has recorded the statement of an owner of a local digital news platform whose news story on child lifters went viral in the area. The police is probing if social media posts that went viral in Dhule instigated the mob that killed five members of a nomadic tribe on July 1 at Rainpada village in Dhule around 350 kilometres from Mumbai.
Rafiq Sheikh, who runs Media Live, published a news story that claimed child lifter groups were on the prowl in Sakri taluka in Dhule. Rainpada is part of Sakri taluka. The 2.08-minute long Marathi news capsule – using graphics, still images and file footage – claimed that an attempt was made to abduct an infant aged one-and-a-half years by a group of men dressed in burkhas in the Chand Tara area of Sakri on June 29 morning.
According to the news story, the bid was foiled after local women spotted the men, chased them away and saved the infant. The clip also mentions the names of two Sakri policemen asking them to take note of the incident and asks viewers to remain vigilant against such child lifters in the area. It ends with the number of the Sakri police station where people could call if they spot anything suspicious.
“I was called in for questioning. We have clarified that while the news capsule was aired at 1 pm on June 29, as soon as we learnt that there was no such case reported at Sakri it was pulled out within ten minutes. However, by then the clip had gone viral and resurfaced after the July 1 lynching,” Sheikh told The Indian Express.
The cyber crime team of Dhule Police is probing if the lynching was related to viral social media posts including the one posted by Sheikh. “The July 1 lynching is a cocktail of rumours spreading through word of mouth and social media. We are probing how social media was responsible. Sheikh’s questioning was in connection with the same but so far we haven’t found anything untoward that could directly ascertain that his post caused the rumours,” said an official from the Dhule Police station.
Five teams have been formed by the police to probe the case. Of the 25 arrested while seven are from Rainpada where the incident took place, the rest are from neighbouring hamlets located at a distance of two to 20 km away.
On July 1, five members of the Dongrinanthpanthi Gosawi community were killed by a mob in Rainpada hamlet of Dhule in Maharashtra. The mob suspected they were child lifters after rumours had spread across the region.