The statements of the police to the media are in sharp contrast to what the videos later showed. If not for these videos, the Maharashtra police would have escaped scrutiny.
In an incident that has sent shockwaves across the country, three men, including two sadhus, were lynched to death by a mob of hundreds of men in Maharashtra.
The incident took place outside Gandchinchle village of Maharashtra’s Palghar district on 16 April. It is being said that the mob took the victims to be ‘child thieves’.
Chikane Maharaj Kalpavrikshgiri (70) and Sushil Giri Maharaj (35) belonged to the revered Varanasi-based Shri Panch Dashnam Juna Akhara. The third victim, Nilesh Telgane (35) was a driver. The three were on their way to a funeral in Gujarat.
Although the incident was covered by regional as well as prominent English dailies in Mumbai editions, it did not draw national attention until two related videos surfaced on social media two days later.
The videos not only showed how horrific the act by the mob of around 200 men was, they also raised questions on claims made by Maharashtra police before the videos came to light.
Here is what the police told various publications before the videos surfaced:
In a report published in Hindustan Times on 18 April, assistant police inspector (API) at Kasa police station, Anandrao Kale, was quoted as saying that the police tried to save the victims but could not succeed as the mob was strong and targeted them.
“The mob was strong and we tried to save the passengers but it also targeted us and started to pelt stones while beating them and as a result, the trio succumbed to their injuries,” Kale was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
Read this statement by an asst police inspector quoted by HT in a report two days ago.— Swati Goel Sharma (@swati_gs) April 19, 2020
“The mob was strong and we tried to save the passengers but it also targeted us...”
Does the video corroborate anything he is saying? Doesn’t seem so #palgharlynching pic.twitter.com/EuZtwyumJ5
But this is not what the video shows.
In one of the two videos that went viral on social media, an aged man clad in saffron could be seen being escorted by a cop out of a building, while a crowd had gathered outside and had been waiting for them. As the aged man comes out, looking scared and bleeding on the head, the crowd takes him away and begins to beat him mercilessly.
The video suggests, as many users on social media pointed out, that the cop who escorted the man out of the building did not seem to be showing much resistance when the mob took the elderly man away.
Even as some men continued to shower lathis on the man lying next to a police vehicle, it can be seen in the video that no cop made attempts to save him.
I am distressed by the callous way the police let those two old Sadhus be beaten to death by a mob in #Palghar. I always had a lot of respect for Maharashtra police. Never thought Mah Police would let this happen. @MumbaiPolice @DGPMaharashtra. @OfficeofUT pic.twitter.com/tVB6ScHkyC— Shefali Vaidya. (@ShefVaidya) April 19, 2020
Surprisingly, some news portals quoted the same API Kale as saying that the three men had already passed away by the time the police team arrived.
In a report by news agency Press Trust of India (PTI), API Kale has been quoted as saying that the police came to know about the incident in the middle of the night, and when they reached the spot, they found the three lying dead and their car badly damaged. The PTI report was carried by several publications.
The Hindu quoted the police as saying that the police “spotted the severely injured lying on the road”.
An excerpt from the report reads:
A large mob of villagers surrounded the car within a matter of minutes and started attacking it with sticks, irons rods and their bare hands, leading to the death of all three occupants. “One of our patrolling vehicles later spotted the severely injured trio lying on the road and stopped to investigate. However, our team was also attacked by the mob and the vehicle pelted with stones. Our personnel had to flee and were unable to rescue to the victims,” an officer with the Kasa police said.
This, again, is in contradiction to what one sees in the video.
It is safe to say that the failure on part of the police would not have come to light had these videos not emerged.
After the videos, many are accusing the police of being “mute spectators” and of trying to cover up the incident and hide its failure.
Meanwhile Here’s An Update About The Case
As the videos of the incident went viral on social media and netizens began to call out Maharashtra police and the government, the state administration became active.
State home minister Anil Deshmukh took to Twitter to say that over 100 people had been arrested.
The police reportedly registered a case under Section 188 (disobedience), Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Disaster Management Act, 2005, and Epidemic Diseases Act,1897.
Chief Minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray, while clarifying that there was no communal angle in the case as was being claimed on social media, said the state government was not going to spare the culprits.
The case has been handed to the Crime Investigation Department (CID).
In the case of mob lynching, till now 110 accused ( of local tribal community) have been arrested out of which 9 are juvenile.— Palghar Police (@Palghar_Police) April 20, 2020
Investigation is handed over to CID Crime.
IG Konkan is directed to enquire into police action.
Two police officers are suspended.