A septuagenarian man was beaten to death by a mob on suspicion of being child lifter in Jharkhand’s Sahibganj district, police said on Thursday.
The police, however, are yet to identify the victim, whose body has been sent for autopsy.
“We have lodged an FIR against unknown persons today and started probe,” said Sahibganj superintendent police (SP) Hrudeep P Janardhanan.
The incident took place in remote Kuchi Pahari area under Mirzachoki police station, around 440 km northeast of capital Ranchi, on Wednesday afternoon when the 70-year-old man went collect herbs from hilly place.
“I think the old man, who was looking very poor, died due to panic on way to hospital after being beaten by villagers. We found minor injury marks seen on his body. The autopsy report will reveal the actual cause of the death,” he said.
Sahibganj sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) Nawal Sharma said, “The old man went to collect herbs from a hilly place. While retuning, few villagers suspected him as child lifter. They thrashed him at Kuchi Pahari village.”
After hearing this, the village head Sunny Pahariya rushed to the place and rescued him from the mob, Sharma said.
“The old man was being brought to Mirzachoki health centre. He was able to walk on his feet at that time. But, all of a sudden, he fell and died,” Sharma said.
During interrogation, some villagers told the police that the man was often spotted in the area, going to the hill to collect herbs.
The SP said they have been spreading awareness villages to counter child lifting rumours. “Since most of them belonged to Pahariya tribe in the tribal villages, they hardly understand Hindi. We have involved village heads and other people to spread awareness in this regard in villages,” he said.
In another incident, an elderly person was tied to an electric pole and thrashed by villagers on suspicion of being child lifter at Belbad village in Deoghar district on Wednesday. In Ranchi, a mentally disordered woman was beaten calling her child lifter. However, both of them were rescued by police in time.
Mob lynching on suspicions of child lifting has become common in Jharkhand, where the administration has been issuing public notice, warning rumour-mongers of stringent legal action. The Ranchi district administration recently issued such a notice which says, “Spreading rumour of child lifting is becoming a common affair. Punishing or physically torturing any person by any mob is a legal offence. Such people in the mob will be identified and legal action will be taken against them.”