Mob attacks homeless man over child abduction rumours in Bengal’s Bongaon area

This is the fourth such incident reported in North 24 Parganas since a missing child was found dead in his neighbour’s house earlier this month

Published - June 24, 2024 10:27 am IST - Kolkata

After Barasat, rumours of child theft gripped Bongaon of North 24 Parganas, leading to the assault of a homeless man in the Thakurpalli area. Residents had noticed the man roaming around the streets aimlessly, suspected him of child abduction and subjected him to extreme public violence.

While a few locals intervened and saved the man, he was severely injured in the encounter. Bongaon Police arrived at the site after being informed by a member of a local club.

The injured victim was later admitted to the Bongaon sub-divisional hospital for treatment. Police were investigating the incident.

Also read | Panic grips West Bengal’s Barasat as child theft rumours seize public imagination

Multiple incidents

It was on June 21 that a similar incident was reported from Ashoknagar in North 24 Parganas. A mob beat up a 28-year-old mentally challenged woman on suspicion of child theft. Three policemen from the Ashoknagar station were also injured while trying to rescue the woman. Eight persons were arrested over the incident. Rumours of child abduction, however, continued to spread in the region.

Within a few hours of this incident, a young man was brutally beaten up in the Monoharpur area of Barrackpore, North 24 Parganas. Police reached the spot and rescued the man who was later admitted to a local hospital. Three persons were arrested over this incident.

Like in Ashoknagar, similar violence broke out in Barasat on June 19 over child theft rumours. A hysteric mob beat up three unsuspected people. All of them were severely injured and admitted to the hospital. Police had to intervene to control the situation.

These rumours started when an 11-year-old boy went missing in the Kazipara area of Barasat. The boy had been missing for five days by the time he was found dead inside his neighbour’s bathroom on June 13. It was later confirmed that he had been strangled to death; the perpetrator was yet to be identified.

Rumours galore

This death led to rumours of child theft in the area and spread like wildfire. Social media campaigns and fake news also added to the fear-mongering.

Barasat Superintendent of Police Pratiksha Jharkhariya said at a press briefing on June 19, “There is no incident of child abduction in Barasat. Do not listen to any rumours.”

Barasat Police arrested six persons over the June 19 incident. Later, they arrested three admins of two Facebook groups on June 20 for spreading rumours which led to mass hysteria.

The persistent rumours and many such cases of violence have left North 24 Parganas in a state of turmoil. Police have launched a miking campaign for awareness to curb the rumours and reassure locals of public safety who remained worried about their children.

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