DHULE: It is yet another case of low tolerance threshold in a society bedevilled with fault lines and social cleavages – which, of late, is manifesting in mindless violence. Abetting the trend is ‘fake news’ and the misuse of the digital tool – the latest being the social media-fuelled hysteria about gangs out on the streets to kidnap children.
The malaise reared its head in Maharashtra on Sunday with five persons being killed in Dhule district by villagers who suspected that they were part of a gang of child lifters. The incident has come on the heels of similar such episodes in several parts of the country. The five, along with a few others, got down from a state transport bus in the tribal Rainpada hamlet. When one of them apparently tried to speak to a girl child, villagers, who had gathered for the weekly Sunday bazaar, pounced on them. The mob armed with stones and logs of wood surrounded the group and started beating them mercilessly. The victims were later locked in a room and thrashed yet again. All five of them succumbed to their injuries. However, two men from the group of seven managed to escape.
Two policemen were also reportedly injured when they tried to intervene. The men who were killed were reportedly from Solapur district. It’s still not clear why they had come to Rainpada. According to police, there were rumours for the last few days that a gang of child lifters was active in the area.
“The accused hail from a tribal village where WhatsApp posts pertaining to child kidnappers had gone viral,” Dhule Superintendent of Police M Ramkumar told a mainstream newspaper. “Believing these posts to be true, the mob took the five deceased for child lifters and thrashed them to death.” In a knee-jerk response, Maharashtra Minister of State for Home Deepak Kesarkar has appealed to people not to believe in rumours on social media. The police have detained 17 residents of Rainpada village in connection with the crime. M Ramkumar, Dhule SP, said that all residents of the village – around 250 of them – have left the village after the incident.
Incidentally, in Guwahati, on Sunday, a woman with special needs was tied to a pole and tortured by a village mob. They suspected her to be a kidnapper, the police said. The woman was seen loitering around. Some people questioned her but she could not reply properly. This led to suspicion that she was a ‘sopadharaa’ (child-lifter), and they tied her to a pole and tortured her, a local police official said. Likewise, a hawker from Uttar Pradesh was beaten to death by a mob in Tripura on Thursday, again on the suspicion that he was planning to kidnap children.