More than 100 people, including nine juveniles, were arrested for allegedly beating three men to death in Maharashtra’s Palghar district last week.
The men, who were driving from Mumbai to Surat to attend a funeral, were mistaken for thieves by a group of villagers in Gadchinchle, a tribal village in remote Palghar.
Among the dead were two Hindu saints – Chikne Maharaj Kalpavrukshagiri (70) and Sushilgiri Maharaj (35) — and their driver Nilesh Telgade (30).
On their way to Surat, a sentry of the forest department stopped them near Gadchinchle village, where they were dragged out of their car by a vigilante mob and attacked with stones, sticks and rods. The video that surfaced on April 20 showed the police struggling to rescue the three from the mob.
An First Information Report (FIR) was filed against 110 people, out of which 101 were taken into custody till April 30, and the nine minors were sent to the juvenile home.
History of Attacks:
Previously there have been rumors about child abductors, organ-harvesting gangs, and thieves operating in the area at night. These rumors have paved the way for two more cases of assault near Palghar. Local activist Dr Vishwas Valvi and his team were attacked last April 15, when they had gone to supply provisions to tribals during the lockdown in Sarni village. The policemen who went to rescue them, was also pelted with stones.
The second incident occurred ten days back when a police team led by an Additional Superintendent of Police (SP), venturing into the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, was attached by local villagers.
Role of Police:
District Magistrate of Palghar, Kailas Shinde, said that the police had promptly arrived at the spot and tried to pacify the mob. However, they were easily outnumbered, and the angry crowd overturned the victims’ car and threatened the police. A video of the lynching went viral in which it can be seen that the villages are cowering over the overturned car and attacking the travellers with stones, axes, and wooden logs. However, in the subsequent viral videos, the police are seen as mute spectators of the lynching.
Shinde declared, “We will investigate the decisions taken by the officers, and inquiry will be conducted into their behavior during the incident.”
The Inspector-General of Police (Konkan Range), Niket Kaushik, suspended two inspectors of the Kasa Police Station, under whose jurisdiction the incident took place. Assistant Police Inspector Anandrao Kale and Sub-Inspector Sudhir Katare were suspended for alleged dereliction of duty.
Now talk about @DGPMaharashtra.
This is the police who is assigned for safety of people.
They are nothing but powerless and corrupted.
Harsh reality of Indian Police.#PalgharMobLynching#Palghar#MobLynchinghttps://t.co/ZqtJePBULh
— Kritharth (@ikweets) April 20, 2020
Maharashtra Chief Minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray had ordered a high-level investigation of the incident and assured that justice would be served. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also sought a report from the Maharashtra Government over the lynching.
Maharashtra Deputy CM Anil Deshmukh warned against giving any communal color to the lynching and informed that the police were keeping an eye over those who are seeking an opportunity to create a rift in society.
On April 19, former CM of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, slammed the Government and demanded a strict probe into the matter. Fadnavis emphasized on the cruelty of gravity of the incident, criticizing the passive action taken by the police. He added, “What can be more shameful than the way police handed over these people into the hands of a berserk mob and allowed them to take the law into their hands.”
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said on April 20 that he had spoken to CM Thackerey regarding the lynching incident, urging him to take strict action against the culprits.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Sakshi Maharaj warned about seers who would march to Maharashtra from all across India in protest against the Palghar mob lynching if the Government fails to offer justice.
The incident has caused nationwide outrage with commoners and celebrities reacting alone and taking to social media to voice their protests. After the videos showing the gruesome act went viral, the hashtags Palghar and lynching became trending on Twitter, with people shaming the brutal conduct.