Updated: May 22, 2017 7:46:19 pm
First there were the WhatsApp messages cautioning people against supposed child-lifters, leading to panic and a series of lynching incidents in Jharkhand. After the lynching, what has gone into circulation are images and videos of two of the incidents in violent detail, showing the bleeding victims pleading for their lives before they were killed. Policemen are seen present on both occasions.
Two people were lynched in Jadugora on May 12, followed by three in Bagbera on May 18 and four in Shobhapur the same day. In a one-minute, 18-second video on the Bagbera lynching, brothers Gautam and Vikas Verma, 27 and 25, and their friend Gangesh Gupta are seen lying injured on the ground while their 80-year-old grandmother watches helplessly. Policemen can be seen among the mob.
At least two videos of the Shobhapur lynching have gone viral. One, running 25 seconds, shows a crowd surrounding the victims. Policemen are among them. The other video, running two minutes 50 seconds, shows one of the victims, Naim, bleeding while the mob threatens to chop off his limbs. Naim, 35, was killed shortly thereafter, along with Sheikh Sajju, 25; Sheikh Siraj, 26; and Sheikh Halim, 28.
Members of the victims’ families have forwarded the videos to the police. The Shobhapur victims’ family has also submitted a complaint naming 16 persons. “The videos show a lot of details and the faces of some of the people involved,” said Uttam Verma, an eyewitness. “It has been established that they were killed in front of policemen.”
Two persons have been arrested in connection with the Shobhapur incident. Dharnidhar Jyotishi and Dinesh Mahato alias Tudu Mahato were among 20 people named in the FIR. “Many others have been detained. We are interrogating the accused,” said Deepak Kumar, DSP (HQ) Seraikela-Kharsawan. Before the videos came the warning message that sparked the panic, written in Hindi and listing three supposed incidents of child-lifting on May 9 and May 10. Other messages showed images of children supposedly being confined.
“Aap sabhi aas paas ke gaon ke logo se anurodh hai ke aap apne baccho ko zyada se zyada dhyan de, kyunki baccha pakadne wala giroh pure gaon mein ghoom rahe hain. Aap apne baccho ko school, market saath le jaye aur saath hi ghar chhode. Bahar khel rahe baccho par poori tarah dhyan de… Suraksha ke drishtikon se savdhani baratne ki zaroorat hai, ise afwah na samjhe,” the message reads.
(“All residents of villages in the neighbourhood are requested to keep a close watch on your children because child lifter gangs are roaming in these villages. Please accompany your children to school and markets and accompany them home. Keep a close eye on them while they play outside. It is important to be cautious for the sake of security; do not consider it a rumour.”)
“Rumours were already spreading so when such official-sounding WhatsApp messages came up, tribals had no doubt that child-lifter gangs were indeed on the prowl,” Anta Tudu, Shobhapur village headman, told The Indian Express. “There were also pictures of children in a room and other images. We were scared, and some of us panicked.”
“We are trying to trace the people behind the WhatsApp messages and images,” said Anoop T Mathew, SSP, Jamshedpur. “Meanwhile, our investigation into the lynching cases is on. An awareness campaign is also on against rumour mongering.”
The message stated that on May 10 in Ichratola, child-lifters had been caught at 10 pm, beaten up by villagers and handed over to police. On May 9 and 10, it claimed, child-lifters fled after being spotted in Rakha area; they were supposedly wearing grey clothes. The message also describes the “child-lifters” as capable of speaking Hindi, Bengali and Malayalam and carrying injections, sedatives, a spray and handkerchiefs. The message asks villagers to contact the nearest police station if they spot the gang, and to share the post.
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