Taken to be a cattle thief, mentally-ill man tied to tree, thrashed by mob in Jharkhand
Police said Afroz, from Wasseypur, was seen with three cows and the suspects assumed he was a cattle smuggler.
A mob in a Dhanbad village tied a 26-year-old mentally ill man to a tree and assaulted him on Wednesday believing that he was a cattle thief, according to the police, which rescued the victim.
The attack comes within months of a spate of mob killings in Jharkhand where at least seven people were lynched over rumours that they were child abductors.
On Wednesday, Afroz, from Wasseypur, was apparently seen with three cows and the suspects took him to be a cattle thief.
“He is not a cattle-smuggler, neither did he intend to steal the cows. The villagers saw him with three cows and jumped to the conclusion that he was stealing them,” said East Basuria OP in-charge Premchandra Hansda, adding that the attack was sparked from a rumour.
Due to his mental disorder, he failed to speak in his defence when the villagers accused him of stealing cows, possibly for slaughter, he said.
Police said the attackers were not part of so-called gau rakshaks – vigilante groups that have killed and assaulted several people in different parts of the country to protect cows.
Cow is considered sacred by the Hindus, and its slaughter and smuggling has been in focus since the electoral successes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
In Jharkhand, there have been at least three instances in the last month when mobs have attacked Muslim men for allegedly stealing or transporting cattle and beef.
Police said Afroz sustained injuries on his head, back, feet and neck, and is doing fine after first aid. They said Afroz is mentally unwell and was being treated at Ranchi Institute of Neuro-psychiatry and Allied Sciences (RINPAS) for at least five years.
“It was an incident of mob rage. Villagers here are often very strict with people who pose to be a threat to their cattle,” said investigating officer Hansda.
Fearing the incident may snowball into a communal confrontation, police have put a scanner on social media use in the area since the incident.
Giridih, less than 45km from Dharjori village, simmered in communal tension hours before the assault on Afroz.