Two days after a mob attacked two youths from Odisha on Chennai’s Kamarajar Street, suspecting them to be child-lifters, the police on Monday said the main instigator has been arrested and two others are in custody. Local residents said many people who beat up the duo were only passing by and did not know why the crowd was assaulting them.
Identifying the prime accused as Balamurugan, P Aravindan, DCP, T Nagar, said, “We are questioning them (those detained). Balamurugan was working as a painter (in the area).”
Balamurugan, 24, was arrested for instigating the mob attack late Saturday evening and spreading false news about purported child-lifters, the police said.
Aravindan said the victims — Gopal Sahoo and Binod Vikari, both 25 — are out of danger and are being monitored by doctors.
Abdul Aziz, who works at a small local shop selling disposable plastic products, said the two were given a chase by a crowd and pinned down in front of his shop. “They were attacked by more than 50 people. Many of those who attacked them were passerby — people going by on their two-wheelers stopped and joined the mob to kick them and left as others joined in.”
Several others in the area agreed with Aziz.
At the home of the four-year-old who was rumoured to be the target of the alleged child-lifters, on Kamarajar Street, a narrow lane linked to busy Tiruvalluvar Salai in Chennai, his father said, “I was not present when the incident took place. I do not know them (victims).”
Pointing at a three-storey structure nearby, which houses dozens of labourers working for Chennai Metro, the boy’s father said, “They may have been staying there earlier.”
Rajagopal, who owns a shop in the area, said Sahoo and Vikari stayed there for a while. “We know them, but identifying them individually is tough. They don’t speak Tamil — all these make rumours (of being child-lifters) convincing,” he said.
According to the police, sometime just before 9 pm on Saturday the boy was running towards his mother and had dropped a ten-rupee note when Sahoo and Vikari saw him. They reportedly picked up the boy, handed him the money, and put him down.
According to police, a young man in the locality saw them and asked the boy’s mother whether the family knows the duo. As she said no, the man immediately conveyed his “concern” to his relative Balamurugan, who alerted others and stopped Sahoo and Vikari, the police said. They sensed danger and tried to flee, but the crowd gave a chase and pinned them down, a senior officer investigating the case said.
Aziz said the two were not killed “because they fell unconscious, and a few people feared they were dead”. He said, “Two policemen who reached early did not attempt to stop the mob — they may also have been afraid.”
Raja Manickam, who works at a shop in the area, also said most people who attacked the two had no clue about the incident. “They didn’t know whether they were child-lifters, or thieves, or where they came from — they saw the mob, joined in, and threw a punch or kick,” Manickam said.