In Another Rumour-Triggered Lynching, Five Men Killed in Maharashtra

While villagers decided that the men were child-lifters, police think they had travelled to the village to beg at the weekly bazaar.

Mumbai: In a horrific incident of mob violence, five persons were lynched in a tribal hamlet, Rainpada village in Sakri taluka of Maharashtra’s Dhule, over 300 km from the state capital, Mumbai. The incident, according to the Pimpalner police, occurred after five persons reached the village at 11 am on Sunday. The police has said that “five men in their late 20s” reached the Ghodade bus station, 2.5 km from the village, and were waiting near the bus stop. One of them reportedly spoke to a young girl nearby.

For the past few days, the police claimed, SMS and WhatsApp messages have been circulating with rumours of child abductors travelling around the district. The villagers thought these men were entering the village to abduct children, and a frenzied mob pounced on the victims.

In no time, over 100 persons, mostly young boys – even teenagers – gathered. After being ruthlessly beaten for over half an hour, the men were dragged into the village gram panchayat office and beaten again. The five victims are believed to have died in the room.

The five men, according to the police, had come to the village from Maharashtra’s Solapur district and Bijapur district in Karnataka.

According to the police, the victims have been identified as Dadarao Bhosale, his brother Bharat, Aappa Ingole, Bharat Malve and Raju Bhosale. Raju was from Karnataka and the others were residents of Mangalwedha in Solapur district. The Mangalwedha police has confirmed that the four men from the village belonged to a nomadic Nath Panthi Davari Gosavi community.

The number of people on the street in Rainpada was exceptionally high, as they had gathered for the weekly bazaar. The police is yet to ascertain why the men had come to the village, but prima facie, they claim, it seems the men must have come to beg, since it was the weekly bazaar day.

A video of the lynching, recorded either by a perpetrator or a bystander, has been widely circulated on social media. The video shows a huge crowd dragging a few people and punching and beating them with sticks. It is not clear from the video if there were five or more people attacked by the mob.

The police claim the first call was made to the police station around 12:15 pm, informing them about the commotion in the village. “Around 35 police were dispatched to the spot immediately,” a police constable who identified himself as Shetye told The Wire over the phone. He further added that additional police forces were gathered from the neighbouring police station after the mob at the spot used force against the police as well. “A few of our officers have also been injured in the commotion, while trying to calm the mob down,” he said.

At 8 pm on Sunday, another police naik (constable) Dharmendra Sonawane told The Wire that the police is yet to register an FIR in the case. “The (police) team is at the spot since noon. Police inspector general (Nashik range) Chhering Dorje is also at the spot,” Sonawane claimed.

When the police reached the spot, all five men had succumbed to their injuries. Their bodies were taken to the Pimpalner civil hospital. The police detained 15 persons soon after the incident and several people have reportedly fled the village. Superintendent of Dhule police M. Ramkumar was also at the spot, handling the investigations.

An FIR was filed around 10 pm, almost 11 hours after the incident, at Pimpalner police station. The police invoked several sections of rioting and Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. “Most faces are identifiable in the video recording. We will be able to nab all those involved in the crime,” an officer from the Pimpalner police said. The delay in filing the FIR, the police said, was due to the volatile situation in the village, as the entire team had been dispatched to the spot.

In the past month, numerous messages have been circulating over social media across India about a gang of men travelling around villages and abducting children. While there has not been any case of abduction reported, several people have been lynched under this suspicion. The most recent lynching was at Murabari in West Tripura district, where a hawker from Uttar Pradesh was lynched and two others injured after a mob in Tripura attacked them, assuming they were child-lifters.

Days before that in Assam’s Guwahati, a woman with a mental disability was tied to a pole and tortured by a village mob. There too, the mob suspected her of being a kidnapper.