GUWAHATI: It is not the cow now but rumours targeting individuals as ‘child abductors’. At least four persons have been lynched in almost as many days in Tripura on the basis of this rumour, the last being 33 year old Sukanta Chakrabarty who was hired by the state government to warn people against the very same rumours that led to his lynching June 28 night.

Chakrabarty was mistaken to be a child-lifter by a mob at Kalacherra Bazaar in South Tripura district. “A mob attacked his vehicle at Kalachhara when he was returning to Sabroom. He died but his driver, who too was beaten up, escaped with injuries,” Smriti Ranjan Das, Assistant Inspector General of Police, told reporters in Agartala.

This came just hours after a garment seller was beaten to death by villagers in Mohanpur in West Tripura district on the basis of a similar rumour. The garment sellers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — Zaheer Khan, Khurshid Khan and Guljar Khan, were attacked by villagers near a Tripura State Rifles (TSR) camp. They ran to a camp of the Tripura State Rifles but a report suggests that the mob stormed the camp, despite the police presence, and lynched Zahir Khan. Khurshid and Guljar managed to escape along with their driver, Swapan Miah, with the help of TSR personnel.

A mentally-deranged woman, also suspected to be a child-abductor by the villagers, was lynched at Bishalgarh in Sepahijhala district.

The locals and the Oppostion in the state believes that the mobs were further incited by statements of Chief Minister Biplab Deb and Tripura Law Minister Ratan Lal Nath who reportedly said that the organs of a 11 year old boy Purna Biswas found brutally murdered, had been stolen. This the Opposition claimed had led to widespread panic with mobs collecting on the basis of rumours to lynch innocent outsiders. The childs body was found near his home at Mohanpur in estern Tripura with wounds all over his body. Finally, in response to a question by former Health Minister and CPI-M legislator Tapan Chakraborty, the Chief Minister Biplab Deb clarified,: "It was a most painful and heart-rending killing. Police personnel went to the village to help the villagers, but they were attacked by the agitated villagers. Two injured police officials are still in hospital."

This first murder triggered off panic, with mobs collecting on the basis of spreading rumours. Nath had reportedly connected the young boys death with international kidney racket gangs, that spread like wildifre and resulted in further lynchings. The police were turned away by agitated villagers, with at least two cops in hospital with injuries. Videos of Nath’s statements are in circulation.

The CPI-M and the Congress have demanded thatRatan Lal Nath be sacked for marking irresponsible statements to mislead the public.

The Congress has demanded a judicial enquiry under a sitting high court judge on the lynching incidents. The party had joined the CPI-M to allege that Nath’s statement claiming the presence of international organ gangs in the state had helped the rumours spread, resulting in mob attacks on innocent individuals.

The CM had also reprotedly said that the international border will be sealed to stop organ smuggling. It was being said that the vital organs of the boy were missing from his body. However, the postmortem reported, turned out to be otherwise.

“This is very unfortunate. We condemn the incident of lynching and also the way state ministers misled the public with their irresponsible statements to media. There should be a high level inquiry into the matter with a sitting judge of high court. Without judicial investigation the inside story of such unfortunate incidents would not come to public and the victim families would also not be able to identify their enemy,” Tripura Congress vice president Tapas Dey told The Citizen.

The Tripura Congress will also meet acting Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi to take action against CM Deb and minister Nath ‘for spreading confusing information’ after the Mohanpur killing.

Following the incidents, the Tripura government has banned internet and SMS services in the state.

Former Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar slammed the irresponsible statements provoking these lynching incidents. Without naming any ministers, the CPI (M) politburo member said, “Irresponsible, baseless and foolish comments after killing of a minor boy in Mohanpur (in western Tripura) fuelled such a situation resulting in the lynching of some persons and injuring many in Tripura”.

Sarkar also asked the police to be more careful and vigilant.

Police arrested more than 20 people in connection with these incidents that took place in western and southern Tripura. “The investigation is going on in this regard. There are some people in our radar. We won’t be able to name them now but will be arresting them soon,” said a senior police officer at Agartala.

Chief minister Deb, appealing to the people not to heed child-lifter rumours, said the scare was a CPI (M) conspiracy to tarnish the image of the BJP-led government in Tripura.

Earlier, two youth were lynched by a mob in Assam’s Karbi-Anglong district this month as reported by The Citizen in detail. They were nature lovers and were lynched despite identifying themselves and pleading with the mobs to check out their credentials.