Jharkhand: Week after nine people were lynched; six-month-old baby abduction triggers tension
Unidentified people stole a six-month-old baby in Jharkhand’s Seraikela-Kharsawan district early on Friday, triggering protests and ratcheting up tensions in an area where rumours of child abduction led to mob lynching of nine people last week.
A local couple – identified as Subhash Gope and Parvati Gope -- said men took away their girl in the middle of the night as they were sleeping with the door open due to heat. The incident was reported in Tiruldih, around 100 kilometers from capital Ranchi.
Around 30 kilometers away, police said five unidentified masked men in black robes tried to steal a two-year girl but were chased away by the parents.
“We are certainly concerned but hopeful of recovering the child safely,” said Chandil sub-divisional police officer Sandip Bhagat: “The incidents are handiwork of elements whose motive is to create unrest and defame the government.”
Since May 12, villagers in the district have lynched nine people in a fit of panic and frenzy following social media rumours about outsiders stealing local kids. But investigations have revealed that all of those killed, five of them Muslims, were innocent and were falsely implicated.
Now, authorities say they fear a repeat of the waves of anger and unrest that swept the region last week, after Friday saw hundreds of people protest on the street, demanding a speedy and safe recovery of the stolen child. The government rushed in adequate forces last week but controlling angry and panicked mobs might be a tough ask.
“Around 2 am I had woken up to feed my baby as she was hungry. After feeding we both slept off. Around 4 am when I woke up, I found my child, who was sleeping besides me, missing,” said a sobbing Parvati.
At Bathkamkocha village under Nimdih police station on the foothills of Dalma range of forests, police said the five masked men poured a chemical into the eyes of a local farmer Haldhar Singh Munda while he was asleep and tried to run away with his sleeping two-year-old daughter.
But Haldhar quickly washed his eyes and chased them with an axe in his hand before raising an alarm to alert neighbours who picked up their bows and arrows before chasing down the masked men.
Sensing trouble, the men dumped the child on the outskirts of the village and disappeared under the cover of darkness, police said.
Earlier on Thursday, commissioner of Ranchi and Kolhan, Pradip Kumar, had said that the incidents were aimed at defaming the government as no child theft incidents were reported.
The rumours, he said, had spread like wild fire after some vested interest parties shared it on WhatsApp.
“We are working very hard to spread awareness in villages through our police stations and block offices to prevent further lynching and dispel rumours,” said Ranchi deputy inspector general A V Homkar. He said police and civil authorities were holding meetings in panchayats in the presence of village and panchayat heads where they were provided numbers and requested to inform police if they come across a suspected “child lifter”.
“In every meeting we are urging villagers not to take law in their hands as it would only add to their woes,” Homkar said.