Calcutta, June 4: Two women were killed and two seriously injured when a mob beat them up, accusing them of stealing peanuts.
About a hundred people attacked nine middle-aged women at Nischindapur village in Howrah, about 50 km from here, around 3.30 am.
The women from neighbouring Kundalia village, under Jawpur police station near Amta, were spotted passing through by villagers guarding the peanut gardens who feared they might steal the nuts.
The villagers, according to witnesses, were not satisfied with the explanations given by the women and started beating them up. As news spread that thieves were caught red handed, villagers, including women, joined the crowd.
The merciless beating continued, though the nine women fell unconscious, battered and bruised, said witnesses. Bamboo sticks, iron rods and shovels were indiscriminately used, they said.
The mob hit the women on their abdomen, chests and other parts of the body. The beating did not stop though they groaned and bled, said an elderly man who was at the spot.
Manjaribala Dalui, 48, died on the spot.
Some residents of the area rescued the other bleeding women and rushed them to the local health centre.
Later, three of them were moved to the Uluberia State General Hospital, where Jharibala Sal, 55, died. The condition of Sanaka Dalui and Ranubala Sal is said to be critical.
A team from Jawpur police station rushed to the spot, where tension ran high. Additional forces were sent to keep the situation under control.
Residents of Kundalia claimed that the women were going to the market early in the morning to buy vegetables in bulk as usual and were victims of rivalry.
The women were also molested by the mob, alleged one resident of Kundalia.
The Howrah superintendent of police, Mihir Bhattacharya, said 13 people have been arrested.
Although an initial probe revealed that there was no attempt at molestation, we are investigating all aspects, said a police official.