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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Despite campaigns against rumours, Tripura living in fear of child-lifters’

Tripura police and Tripura State Rifles have initiated a series of confidence-building measures, including community engagements, to check escalation of incidents of violence over rumours.

india Updated: Jul 02, 2018 23:11 IST
Priyanka Deb Barman
Priyanka Deb Barman
Hindustan Times, Agartala
A mob in West Bengal’s Malda attacking a man on June 22.
A mob in West Bengal’s Malda attacking a man on June 22.(HT Representative Photo)
         

Four days after Zahid Khan Qureshi, a garment hawker hailing from Uttar Pradesh, was lynched by a mob at Murabari in Mohanpur sub-division in West Tripura district, 30km from Agartala, local residents still seem to be living in fear of ‘child-lifters’.

Rumours of the presence of these child-lifters is reportedly what led to a mob lynching Zahid.

“People are still scared of the presence of child-lifters despite campaigns that these are rumours. Many parents are still not sending their children to schools,” said Sudhan Das, a shopkeeper in Mohanpur.

Zahid Khan, 30, and two of his companions were attacked in Murabari on June 28. Even as they tried to convince the mob that they were garment hawkers, they were dragged out of a van and thrashed. They ran to a nearby Tripura State Rifles (TSR) camp, with the mob following them. Even as the police and some locals tried to save them, Zahid died.

Four policemen and a local were also injured.

Manohar Sharma, 73, a resident of Murabari, who came to Mohanpur to sell vegetables, said, “The situation was tense since the murder of a boy two days ago (before Zahid was lynched).” The town witnessed violence after the murder of Purna Biswas on June 26, and subsequent rumours that his kidneys may have been harvested.

“The mob must have suspected that the hawkers were child-lifters since they spoke Hindi. You know how people start suspecting others when they are in grief.”

Murabari, a mixed habitation of tribal and non-tribal people, has seen several Hindi-speaking traders coming from across the country to sell garments, toys, plastic ware over the years, and June 28 was no exception.

“Videos of mob lynching people on the suspicion of them being child abductors in other states had been going viral on social media for more than two weeks before the boy was murdered,” an officer at Sidhai police station said. A local resident said “these lynching videos on WhatsApp gave wings to the rumours”.

Shortly before Zahid was lynched, a vagabond woman whose identity remains unknown, was beaten to death at Bishalgarh in Sepahijala district on similar suspicions.

Sukanta Chakraborty, 33, an anti-rumour campaigner hired by the department of information and cultural affairs, also came under attack from a group of 25 people at Sabroom’s Kalacherra in South Tripura district, 130km from Agartala, on June 28. He was later brought dead at a hospital.

In separate incidents, at least eight people were injured in North Tripura, West Tripura, Sepahijala and other districts allegedly over similar rumours.

Director general of police Akhil Kumar Shukla said that rumour-mongering on social media have caused panic in different parts of Tripura.

The state government subsequently imposed a temporary ban on text messages, other messaging services and mobile Internet for 72 hours. The ban was lifted Sunday.

Tripura police and Tripura State Rifles have initiated a series of confidence-building measures, including community engagements, to check escalation of incidents of violence over rumours.

First Published: Jul 02, 2018 23:11 IST