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2 men lynched on suspicion of being child lifters in Assam’s Karbi Anglong

Police said villagers, suspecting them to be child lifters, surrounded the black Scorpio vehicle in which the duo was travelling and started thrashing them, resulting in their death.

india Updated: Jun 09, 2018 23:50 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Mob lynching in Assam,Child lifters,Karbi Anglong
A sound engineer and a businessman were beaten by a mob in Karbi Anglong, Assam on Friday. (AP)

Two men were lynched allegedly by local villagers in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district on suspicion of being “child lifters”, police said on Saturday, pushing the toll of people killed over child abduction rumours across India since May to seven.

Goa-based sound engineer Nilotpal Das,29, and Guwahati-based businessman Abhijeet Das,30, were on their way to a popular waterfall in Kangthilangso when they were stopped by approximately 250 locals in Panjari Kachari village, around 8pm on Friday, Assam police said.

“They had not intimated anyone nor did they have a local guide,” said V Siva Prasad Ganjala, superintendent of police, Karbi Anglong.

The locals took them to be child lifters and attacked their car before pulling them out and beating them to death. Television visuals showed a heavily damaged car with its windscreen and windows smashed in. Police have arrested five people who allegedly led the attack, police said.

“There were apparently rumours of presence of child lifters which the villagers had been getting. And then these men turned up, who were taken to be those child lifters,” a senior state police official said on condition of anonymity. A second official added that one of the men, Das, sported long hair and that may have sparked suspicion of the duo being “outsiders” and “child lifters”.

Over the last few days, police said, rumours of the presence of ‘xopa dhora’ (child lifters) have flooded social media, especially WhatsApp, in Assam and most of them characterise outsiders as possible suspects.

A video doing the rounds on social media and local television purportedly showed Das pleading for mercy, saying he was an Assamese. “Don’t kill me…please don’t beat me. I am an Assamese. Believe me, I am speaking the truth. My father’s name is Gopal Chandra Das and mother’s name is Radhika Das…please let me go,” he purportedly said in the video.

Police said they were informed of the incident around 8.42pm on Friday after a member of the village defence committee called the Dokmoka police station. The police station is said to be 17-18 kilometres away from the village, which itself is 250 kilometres from Guwahati.

”There have been multiple incidents in the state where people have been attacked by locals. Either a mentally challenged person or a new face comes under attack,” said Mukesh Agarwal, the additional director general of police. Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal has ordered an inquiry.

Violence over rumours of child lifters claimed at least five lives in Telangana and Karnataka in May. Incidents of beating up people on suspicion of being child traffickers have been reported from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Four people lost their lives in 2016 following similar rumours in the lower Assam districts of Chirang, Darrang, Baksa, Sonitpur.

“Once the rumours start, they take a few days to die down,” Agarwal said, claiming that the police was trying to prevent such incidents. “We will identify and take action. Nobody will be allowed to go scot free,” he said.

Assam’s director general of police, Kuladhar Saikia said police had appealed to people to not fall for fake news. “We are monitoring social media and have told the village elders to apprise us of any such messages,” he said.

Miguel Das Queah, a Guwahati-based child rights activist, said “ghettoisation of the communities, fear of the outsiders and the real issue of trafficking of children” may have all contributed to the lynching.

“We tried to get in touch with Nilotpal in the evening but all we could hear was loud noises,” Das’ brother Jyoti Prakash Das said. Minutes later the phone was found to be switched off.

“He went all over the country alone. He went to the Himalayas. He was fond of going to remote beautiful locations. He always came back safe,” Das says. “Little did he know the people of his own state would take his life,” he added.

“This is barbarism” he added.

First Published: Jun 09, 2018 15:17 IST