Hundreds of tribals have lynched seven people in separate incidents in Jharkhand in the past 24 hours over rumours of child abduction that spread like wildfire across the tribal belt in the state’s southern districts, police said on Friday.
Stuck by fear that a few outsiders infiltrated into their villages to abduct children, tribals along the borders of Seraikela-Kharsawan, East Singhbhum and West Singhbhum districts, have picked up traditional weapons and are attacking every stranger.
Seven people have been lynched in two separate incidents on Thursday, and at least six have escaped with injuries over the last 10 days.
The seven people lynched on Thursday included four Muslims and three Hindus from neighbouring non-tribal villages and urban areas.
“These are highly superstitious acts that cannot be called communal,” said East Singhbhum senior police superintendent of police, Anup T Mathew.
He denied any incidents of child abduction. “A massive awareness drive is required to check the attacks and killings,” he said, adding that his men were moving village to village shouting on loud speakers to dispel fears of child lifters.
The first incident occurred in Rajnagar block’s Sobhapur village where four Muslim youth, all cattle traders, were cornered and lynched by villagers. When police reached to rescue the traders, the villagers attacked and damaged the police van before fleeing.
Police recovered three bodies from the spot while the fourth body was found on Friday from the woods near the village. Suspecting a communal angle to the murders, angry relatives refused to bury the bodies till the killers were arrested and the government paid Rs. 25 lakh each to the dependents.
“The four men lynched were cattle traders, who often frequented Sobhapur where their relatives live. Hence, they cannot be called strangers. There is certainly a different cause for the murder, which police should probe,” said JMM leader Babar Khan.
Later, in the evening, barely 20 kilometers from Sobhapur in Nagadih village, a mob of tribals lynched three young men, two of them brothers, and thrashed their grandmother.
Eye witnesses said the attack was unprovoked and the victims were not given any chance to defend themselves.