Four women were allegedly assaulted and two of them disrobed by a mob in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district on suspicion of being child-lifters, police said.
The incident took place at Dawkimari village in Dhupguri block and is the fourth one this month so far in the district in which people were attacked over suspicion of being child-lifters.
Last week, a mentally disabled woman was beaten up in the same block of the district on suspicion of being a child-lifter.
Amitabha Maity, Jalpaiguri superintendent of police, said the four women, aged between 20 and 50 years, were not from the area.
One woman had reportedly said she was looking for a relative, another said she was visiting a relative, while the third woman said she sold clothes door-to-door and the fourth one said she had come to a neighbourhood bank, the police said.
Suspecting them to be child-lifters, the mob then allegedly assaulted the four women and even disrobed two of them, Maity said.
The women were rescued by the police and taken to a nearby primary health centre, where their condition was stated to be stable, he added.
Earlier this month, several people were injured in the Kranti area of Mal block in the district in stone-pelting following rumours that child-lifters were roaming in the area.
A few days later a young man was allegedly assaulted at Balapara in Sadar block on suspicion of being a child-lifter, police added.
Maity said that though no arrests have been made so far in connection with the incident, several persons were charged in the earlier incidents. He said the rumour of child-lifting was spread by people who wished to disturb the law and order in the district.
“We are creating awareness on this through the social media and public media like announcements over mikes. People should contact the police on the helpline if they find someone suspicious, but not take law into their own hands,” he said.
Maity said the police were working to find out who were behind the incidents, adding that they wanted to complete the probe fast.
The fear of child lifting has led to an increase in the number of mob lynching incidents in the country. However, most lynchings in the recent past have been fuelled by rumours being circulated on social media.
More than 20 people have been reportedly killed in such mob attacks.
According to reports, 33 persons were killed and at least 99 injured in 69 reported cases between January 1, 2017, and July 5, 2018.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had earlier in July, asked the states and Union territories (UTs) to check incidents of mob lynching fuelled by rumours of child-lifting on social media.
In an advisory, the ministry had urged the states and UTs to “keep a watch for early detection of rumours of child-lifting and initiate effective measures to counter them”.
Jharkhand and Maharashtra have reported the highest death toll among all states and union territories.
On Monday, the Centre set up a high-level committee and a Group of Ministers headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh to frame law against mob lynchings.
(With agency inputs)