The Jharkhand Police on Thursday arrested two people for allegedly circulating messages that spread rumours about the kidnapping of children, which led to the lynching of seven people in two incidents at Jharkhand’s Bagbera and Rajnagar on May 18 and 19, The Indian Express reported. Officials identified the accused as Sourav Kumar and Shankar Gupta and said the were on the lookout for a third accused named Sushil Agarwal.
Officials said Gupta, a journalist, was granted bail as he had only forwarded the post. Kumar has been accused of spreading a Facebook post on May 11 that claimed that “child-lifters” were spotted in Jadugora and listed information about them.
“The Facebook post was shared on WhatsApp by Sushil Agarwal, who posted it in a news group called Zila News. Subsequently, it was shared in other news groups. Nothing has come up during the probe on the basis of which it can be confirmed that the incidents mentioned in the post took place,” said DSP Vimal Kumar, one of the investigating team members.
Administrators of one of the WhatsApp groups concerned, Binod Kesri, said they never intended to spread panic. “Many police officers are members of these groups. If a wrong message was spread, why wasn’t it immediately dismissed?” the newspaper quoted Kesri as saying.
“Hundreds of people shared the message,” East Singhbhum SSP Anoop T Matthews said. “We had to find where it originated. We found that it was generated by Kumar [on Facebook] and then circulated [on WhatsApp] by Agarwal.”
In two separate incidents, seven people were beaten to death in Jharkhand last week over child abduction rumours. While four people were lynched in parts of Rajnagar in the Seraikela-Kharsawa district on May 18, three men were attacked and killed by a mob in the 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 had said.
The lynching had sparked tension in Jamshedpur that saw clashes between protestors and the police. Two police officials were suspended in connection with the incidents.