The Jharkhand government on Monday suspended the police officers in charge of police stations in Bagbera and Rajnagar where seven men were lynched by villagers who thought them to be child abductors, IANS reported. As many as 18 people were arrested in the case.

In two separate incidents, seven people were beaten to death in Jharkhand last week over child abduction rumours. While four people were lynched in Rajnagar areas of Seraikela-Kharsawa district on May 18, three men were attacked and killed by a mob in Bagbera area of Jamshedpur. “It was a spontaneous reaction of the villagers based on unfounded WhatsApp messages about child-lifting,” Jharkhand Home Secretary SKG Rahate told reporters on Monday.

Rahate also said a probe panel headed by the Kolhan commissioner and regional deputy inspector general of police had been constituted to look into the incident. They have been asked to submit a report in a month. “We are identifying people who spread the rumours through WhatsApp,” DK Pandey, deputy general of police, said. The administrator of the WhatsApp group in which the message was circulated has been detained and he is being interrogated, Hindustan Times reported.

As many as 37 people have been named in the Rajnagar incident, and 17 people were named in the Bagbera incident, IANS reported. A compensation of Rs two lakh was announced for the family of the deceased. A team headed by Inspector General (Operations) Asish Batra was in Jamshedpur to take stockof the situation, Rahate said.

On Monday, the National Human Rights Commission issued a notice to Jharkhand director general of police, seeking a report in connection with the case. The commission has asked the DGP to submit a report within four weeks.

The lynching had sparked tension in Jamshedpur that saw clashes between protestors and the police on Sunday morning. Prohibitory orders under Section 144, which bars assembly of four or more people at a place, were imposed in four parts of the city after violence in and around the areas on Saturday.