Students read the poster put up at the old campus of St John’s School, Ranchi, on Tuesday. (Hardeep Singh)
Dhanbad victim Sonali Mukherjee’s ordeal fresh in memory, Ranchi suffered a severe panic attack on Tuesday when posters warning girls, wearing jeans and tops without dupatta, of acid attack appeared at three places including an old school campus.
Police, however, played down the incident, calling it the handiwork of mischief-makers, though they promised arrests soon.
The first poster was noticed on the gate of the Purulia Road old campus of St John’s School, which is now extended premises of St Xavier’s College, around 8am. It said the fiat would come into effect from August 20 and was undersigned by a little-known organisation called the Jharkhand Mukti Sangh.
According to a St Xavier’s security guard, dozens of apprehensive students left campus as soon as the news about the poster spread. “I saw at least 10 girls, all in jeans, rush home by 10.30am. I was confused. But my colleagues informed me about the poster threat. Though I personally did not see the poster, students confirmed it,” he said, requesting anonymity.
An English student of Ranchi Women’s College said many girls were so scared that they called in their parents. “There was no poster near our college, but as you know, bad news travels fast. My friends were frantically calling their parents over phone. Some were so panic-stricken that they wanted to be picked up from college. I may not wear jeans, but I do not like moral policing,” she said, not willing to be named.
A geography student of Nirmala College in Doranda confirmed that there was a mass exodus from the cradle too. “It was not a threat to be taken lightly. By noon, those who were wearing jeans and tops left for home or houses of relatives nearby,” she said.
Their fears are not unwarranted given the government’s apathy towards acid attack victims. In April 2003, 17-year-old NCC cadet Sonali’s face was disfigured by three men who poured acid on her while she was asleep. While Sonali has been running from pillar to post for justice since, her attackers are out on bail.
DSP (city) Anuranjan Kispotta confirmed that three posters had been recovered from different parts of the city. “One at St John’s School’s old campus, another at Albert Ekka Chowk in the heart of the town and the third, from the land registrar’s office in Kutchery. The posters were purportedly put up by an organisation called Jharkhand Mukti Sangh. As soon as we learnt about them, we removed them to prevent panic,” he said.
SSP Saket Kumar Singh said they suspected it to be “mischief” of local youths. “Some time ago, a group had terrorised Ranchi by putting up posters in the name of extremist outfits such as PLFI. This looks like a similar prank. Nonetheless, we will arrest those who put up the posters,” he said.
Singh maintained that the posters, besides threatening girls in jeans without dupatta, also warned non-Jharkhandis against business or land purchase within 4km of Albert Ekka Chowk. “The posters also demanded return of acquired land to Nagri villagers. Thus, it is difficult to confirm that those who put up the warning were just moral police,” he added.
Would you compromise your style over such threats?