The West Bengal government on Monday sounded an alert against mischief-makers who have been spreading rumours on social network that dacoits, child lifters, and “aliens from outer space” were roaming Hooghly, Burdwan, North 24 Parganas and Nadia districts.
The rumours led to hysteria in rural and semi-urban pockets, resulting in assault on more than a dozen people and two lynchings over the past two weeks.
On Saturday, Ranjubala Ghosh, 72, a US citizen, and her daughter, a resident of the North 24 Parganas, were assaulted by locals at Balagarh in Hooghly where the duo had gone to visit an acquaintance. At least a dozen similar incidents had taken place in the districts earlier. Not all the victims, however, were lucky enough to survive.
On Friday, a 22-year-old youth was beaten to death by a mob while on Saturday a vagabond in his 60s met with the same fate in the North 24 Parganas. Several police stations in the affected areas issued the notice and announced over public address systems that citizens should not to fall prey to these rumours.
“We appeal to the people not to pay heed to the messages being spread by a group of mischief-makers. We have identified some of them and 25 arrests have been made so far. We are going to take strong action against those who are playing mischief with ill intention as well as those attacking innocent people,” said Surajit Kar Purakayastha, director general of police, at a press conference. “All police stations in Bengal and Kolkata have been put on alert,” he added.
Some people have been putting up messages on Facebook and WhatsApp, claiming dacoits, child lifters and aliens were spotted in the districts of south Bengal. Carried away, people have started assaulting beggars, vagabonds and eunuchs .