Jamshedpur, May 18: A group of Muslim cattle traders travelling by car were attacked and killed today by a mob in two villages of Seraikela-Kharsawan, near Jamshedpur, with police attributing the barbarity to the fear of child-lifters prevailing in the region since the past week but ruling out any communal angle.
No FIR has been lodged and no one arrested so far.
Over 100 people intercepted and lynched three men, identified as Sheikh Naim (35), Sheikh Sajju (25) and Sheikh Siraj (26) at Shobhapur village in Rajnagar block. The fate of the fourth passenger, Sheikh Halim (28), is not known. The car was also set on fire.
Apparently, all four men had set off from Haldipokhar last night for Rajnagar to buy cattle and sell them at the Saturday haat at Haldipokhar.
Police sources said a mob of self-appointed child-thief vigilantes intercepted the car after it crossed Hessel village, a little after midnight, but the men did not stop. This apparently provoked the crowd, which chased the car and forced it to stop at Daru village.
They caught hold of Naim while the other three escaped, and beat him to a pulp. By 6.30am, knowing Naim was a Muslim, they thought his three friends fled to nearby Muslim-dominated Shobhapur village, and went there.
Stopped by Rajnagar OC Tuleswar Khushwaha, who was with an ASI and a constable, the mob assaulted the cop trio and torched the jeep.
Another police team took Naim from Daru village to Seraikela subdivisional hospital but he died in the hospital.
Around 1pm, the mob traced Sajju and Siraj, who had been given refuge by one Sunil Mahto of Shosomauli village, 2km away from Shobhapur, and lynched the duo.
"Though victims are Muslims, there is no communal colour to the incident. Villagers gripped by fear of child-lifters have committed the crime," Kolhan DIG Prabhat Kumar said. Seraikela-Kharsawan SP Rakesh Bansal said they were mobilising panchayat members to convince people that child-lifting rumours were untrue.
On May 10 and 11, two men whose identities are not known, were lynched over child-lifting rumours in Jadugora, East Singhbhum. Cases of strangers being assaulted on the same suspicion have crossed a dozen.