NEW DELHI: Dangerous, orchestrated rumours of black magic---women’s braids being snipped off by ghostly outsiders---have swept across Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan with mobs now taking the life of at least one person---an old Dalit woman in Dauki, Agra with reports just received of a lynch attack on a young Muslim man from Sikri, Bharatpur in Rajasthan.

Both were mercilessly beaten by mobs, with the death of the Dalit woman Maan Devi confirmed. A video received by The Citizen shows the young Muslim man who has been identified now as Hafiz Mukim tied with ropes, and being beaten by a mob. It has just been confirmed he is alive, but badly injured.

According to his family members, some of them were taking a sick relative to Alwar hospital. Mukim was riding a motorcycle, following the vehicle with the others. At Sikri a mob suddenly stopped him, with some men saying that he was one of thos responsible for cutting the braids of the women. He was attacked immediately, tied with ropes as the video shows, and beaten unconscious.They urinated on him while hitting him.

Both were attacked by mobs reacting to the black magic rumours. There has been no effort at the larger government level in these affected northern states, to check these rumours that have spread like wildfire, According to local politicians, the rumours are being allowed to spread unchecked with some resistance only from the odd District Collector who have been urging people to counter these lies, and ensure communal amity in the more sensitive areas of these states.

The woman Maan Devi had gone to relieve herself at night, according to her family members, she lost her way, and was beaten mercilessly by a mob insisting she was a ‘witch’. She pleaded with them to let her go, her family and other persons rushed to rescue her, but she died on her way to hospital. She had reportedly entered Baghaels Mutnai village under Dauki police station, 25 km from the city, where she was surrounded by a group of men who accused her of coming to cut the hair young girls. She was not give a chance to explain and beaten by the mob.

Additional Director General of Police Anand Kumar is quoted by the agencies as saying the incident is highly unfortunate and that there is no such gang of witches or others who cut off braids.He added that all the nearby magistrates and Senior Superintendents have been alerted with respect to the recent situation.

Kumar said, “These rumours started in and around Rajasthan and Haryana. We are trying to make sure that these rumours don't spread.”

There has been barely any word about the attack on Mukim. Local reporters at Jaipur had not even heard a whisper, 24 hours after the incident, with the police silent and the state government disinterested. It was left to civil rights activists to trace the injured man, get the details, and offer succour to the traumatised family.

The spate of lynchings continues in north India. Three Muslim men were attacked and badly beaten by a mob in Bihar, the first such attack by cow vigilantes, after Nitish Kumar was re-elected Chief Minister of a Janata Dal(U)-BJP government in the state. The three men were accused of carrying buffalo meat, and while the meat has been sent for forensic examination, it is not clear whether those who took law into their own hands in Bihar’s Bhojpur district have been arrested and charged by the police.

The mob blocked the Ara-Buxar stretch of the National Highway 84, disrupting vehicular traffic for more than three hours, alleging beef was being smuggled to neighbouring West Bengal, the police said later. The mob also wanted action against the local Shahpur station house office (SHO) for what they claimed was his failure to check “beef smuggling.” Nitish Kumar who has been very vocal on financial corruption, has not said a word on this attack till now.