Fuelled by WhatsApp rumours, Dhule mob wanted to burn bodies of ‘child abductors’
The mob, which beat five tribals to death on Sunday night on suspicion of child lifting, was not satisfied with their killing and wanted the bodies to be burnt on the spot, according to the police.
The victims belonged to the nomadic Nath Gosavi community who move from place to place in Maharashtra in search of food and work.
According to police officials and locals, the victims were first attacked by a group of “highly inebriated” people in Kakar pada, a village adjoining Rainpada village, in Dhule district and were brought to Ranipada while being continuously thrashed along the 1-km stretch.
The tribals had arrived last Saturday night and had planned to go to the police station on Sunday to register themselves.
Whenever this community visits a village, they report to the local police station.
According to videos which were shared on social media, one of the five victims apparently tried to speak to a six-year-old girl after which they were pounced upon, stoned and thrashed with sticks and chappals.
The vicious attack stemmed from rumours on social media which suggested that a gang of child abductors was active in the area.
Police received a distress call at around 11 am on July 1; it took them an hour to reach the spot which is located about 40 kms from the station, assistant police inspector Yogesh Khatkal of Pimpalner police station said.
By then a crowd of about 3,000 people had gathered at site.
“When we reached there, all the five were dead,” he said.
The mob was so worked up that they attempted to physically prevent the police from taking custody of the bodies, said Khatkal, who was one of the five police personnel injured by the mob.
“They wanted the bodies to be burnt there only,” the official said.
Police have arrested 23 people so far.
‘Mob egged on by youths from other villages’
Sakharam Pawar, a former sarpanch of Rainpada, described the sequence of events on the fateful day.
He said that around a dozen people had caught hold of the five persons after they saw them dressed in attires not commonly associated with the Nath Gosavi community.
Nath Gosavi is a nomadic community from Maharashtra. They live on what people offer to them. People from this community not only roam in Maharashtra in search of food and work, but also travel to other states.
“The villagers saw the men, who were dressed in strange attires, offering biscuits to small children. This aroused suspicion that they wanted to kidnap the children,” Pawar said, adding that the men were continuously beaten while being dragged for a kilometre to Ranipada.
Vishwas Gangurde, another villager, said when the five men were brought to Rainpada, the villagers tried to intervene and asked people of the adjoining villages to let them give their version.
“The men were then taken to the panchayat office, where the villagers asked about their antecedents and what they were doing with the children. As they had been thrashed badly, they were only half awake,” he said.
“While they were being questioned, some youth in a highly inebriated state, egged the gathered crowd to not believe what the five men said,” Gangurde added.
“The mob then broke the door and windows of the panchayat office and started thrashing the men, which resulted in their death,” he said.
“None of these drunk youth, who egged the mob to kill the victims, were from Rainpada... Just 2-3 of them were from our village,” he claimed, adding that the Sunday market attracts people from over 20 villages.
Another officer from the police station, requesting anonymity, said five teams have been formed, which are looking for other people involved in this lynching.