Jamshedpur, May 18: A village mob chased the car of a group of cattle traders and lynched three of them near Jamshedpur in a hunt that stretched through the night and spilled over to this afternoon.
Police blamed child-kidnapping rumours sweeping the region in Jharkhand over the past week and ruled out any communal motive. In March last year, two cattle traders had been killed in Latehar in the BJP-ruled state in a suspected instance of cow vigilantism.
In the early hours today, Sheikh Naim, 35, Sheikh Sajju, 25, and Sheikh Siraj, 26, had been travelling to buy cattle but had not bought any yet when they were accosted.
The trio and a fourth cattle trader, Sheikh Halim, 28, whose fate remains unknown, had set off last night from Haldipokhar, East Singhbhum, for Rajnagar in Seraikela-Kharsawan district to buy cattle. They apparently planned to sell the animals at the Saturday weekly market in Haldipokhar.
Police sources said a mob of over 100 tried to stop the car after it crossed Hessel village a little after midnight, but it sped way. The crowd chased the car and forced it to a halt in Daru village. The mob beat Naim mercilessly and torched the car while the other three escaped. Around 6.30am, the crowd reached the nearby village of Shobhapur, which has a large Muslim population, in search of the three.
Stopped by Rajnagar OC Tuleswar Khushwaha, who was with an assistant sub-inspector and a constable, the mob assaulted the three policemen and torched their jeep. Another police team took Naim from Daru to the Seraikela subdivisional hospital, where he died.
By 1pm, the mob had traced Sajju and Siraj, who had been given shelter by Sunil Mahto of Shosomauli village, 2km from Shobhapur, and lynched the duo.
"There is no communal aspect," deputy inspector-general of police Prabhat Kumar said.
Rumours about child-kidnappings have spread across the region, a hub of human trafficking, although no actual kidnappings have been reported. Two men were lynched earlier this month in East Singhbhum.