THREE MEN from Kandivali in Mumbai, who were driving to a funeral in Surat, were lynched by a group of villagers in Gadchinchle, in Maharashtra’s Palghar district, on Thursday night. The mob, which allegedly suspected the three men to be thieves, also attacked a police team that reached the spot.
“As per preliminary information, one Sushil Giri Maharaj, who stays in an ashram in Kandivali, and two others, Jayesh and Naresh Yelgade, were travelling in a van which they had rented to travel to Surat to attend a funeral,” Palghar District Collector Kailas Shinde said, adding that one of them was driving the car.
Despite the lockdown, the three had managed to cover a distance of 120 km, till they were stopped by a sentry of the forest department near Gadchinchle village, which is close to the border that Maharashtra shares with the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
Over the past few days, villagers had formed vigilante groups over rumours that organ-harvesting gangs, child lifters and thieves were operating in the area at night. The rumours had led to two cases of assault in the nearby areas, with a medical officer having been beaten up a few days ago. Last week, a police team led by an Additional SP that was on its way to Dadra and Nagar Haveli was also attacked.
Around 10 pm on Wednesday night, while the three men in the car were having a conversation with the two forest guards, a few men, said to be part of the vigilante group, walked up to the car and got into an argument.
As the argument intensified and the mob beat up the three, the forest guards called up the Kasa police station, located 35 km away.
A team of four policemen from Kasa reached the spot, but 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 the mob pelts with stones, logs and axes.
Subsequently, another police team of 12 reached the spot and managed to get the three men to sit in two separate police vehicles. “However, the mob of around 400 people attacked our vehicles. Some of our policemen were injured as well,” Shinde said.
The mob managed to pull the three from inside the police vehicle, after which they lynched them. None of the policemen were seriously injured and questions are being raised about the allegedly passive role of the police in the entire incident.
“We will investigate the decisions taken by our officers and their role during the incident,” Shinde said.
The overpowered police party than called for backup, after which a larger police force managed to disperse the crowd and recovered the three bodies.
Palghar District Superintendent of Police Gaurav Singh said cases have been filed against 110 villagers from Gadchinchle under charges of murder and attempt to murder, unlawful assembly and disobedience to order promulgated by a public servant.
Singh also said police would investigate how the three men had managed to come all the way from Kandivali to the area despite the lockdown. The bodies of the three have been sent to Talasari for the postmortem procedure as Kasa Hospital, which is closest to the spot, was sealed after a case of COVID-19 was reported.