In a display of barbarity, a mob of around 200 villagers flouting all lockdown norms lynched three people, including two Hindu monks, in Maharashtra's Palghar on April 17 while the policemen seemed overpowered; the scenes of which went viral on social media and drew widespread condemnation and political commentary.
According to local media reports, three people, travelling from Nashik to Surat, were lynched late on Thursday night in the Jawahar area of Palghar on the suspicion of being thieves. The mob started questioning them, abused and then assaulted them brutally with sticks, rods and stones.
When the police team reached the spot and took them to their van, the crowds attacked the police van and continued to assault them till they succumbed. The victims were later identified as Sushilgiri Maharaj, 30, Chikne Maharaj Kalpavriksha Giri, 70 and their driver Nilesh Telwade, 30.
The Kasa police said the incident occurred near Gadakchinchale village under their jurisdiction. Several policemen were also reported of getting beaten up, leaving several injured.
The authorities said on Sunday that an FIR has been filed against villagers and 110 people have been arrested so far, of which 101 have been sent to police custody till April 30 while nine minors have been sent to a juvenile shelter home.
Palghar District Magistrate Kailash Shinde said, "A video related to the incident is viral on social media, in which it can be seen that villagers damaged car of the deceased using sticks, stones and other objects. Police reached the spot immediately but still, villagers continued to attack the three men."
He added that the three men were taken to hospital where they were declared dead and said that the investigation is underway.
On Sunday, former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis condemned the incident calling it "shocking and inhuman". Fadnavis demanded the State Government set up a high-level inquiry into the matter and ensure justice. Visuals of the incident have been circulating in social media, which Fadnavis termed as "disturbing".
The cruelty with which the mob lynching in #Palghar happened, is beyond inhuman.— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) April 19, 2020
I demand a High Level Enquiry and strictest action be taken at the earliest.#Maharashtra #Mumbai pic.twitter.com/tnagputI7J
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi on Sunday accused the police of being mere spectators in the incident. Taking to Twitter, Singhvi said, "Trembling to see video of mob lynching of 2 monks by mob in police presence. police didn't do much 2save monks &silently handed them over to the mob to be beaten up &killed. The policemen & everybody from mob should be severely punished subject to inquiry & truth."
CM Uddhav Thackeray reacted on the matter later in the day, saying the Palghar incident has been acted upon. "Nobody guilty in this heinous crime and shameful act will be spared and they will be brought to justice in the strongest way possible," the CMO handle tweeted.
Cabinet Minister Aaditya Thackeray also pledged that the strictest action is being taken in the matter.
CM has made a statement on the Palghar crime. I urge all, especially political parties to kindly note that the police had already arrested all those involved in attacking the sadhus. Strictest action is being taken. Maharashtra Govt never will pardon any such crimes. https://t.co/A5cukgoOpN— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) April 19, 2020
"The Govt will ensure that all those guilty in this heinous crime will face the law to the strictest. All accused have been arrested that day itself," he said in another tweet.