Incidents of lynching triggered by rumours claimed ten lives in 14 incidents in Maharashtra during the last one-and-a-half months, the police said on Tuesday.
In the latest incident, five persons were lynched by a mob in Dhule district on Sunday on the suspicion of being child-lifters, sending shock waves through the state.
In the wake of the horrific crime, police decided to compile data of lynchings so as to devise a preventive strategy, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Bipin Bihari told agencies.
Incidents of lynching were reported from Aurangabad, Nandurbar, Dhule, Jalgaon, Nashik, Beed, Parbhani, Nanded, Latur, Gondia and Chandrapur districts, he said.
In all these cases, local people set upon strangers on the suspicion, fuelled by social media, that they may be either child-lifters or were moving around with the intention of committing theft, he said.
“We are witnessing such kind of incidents for the last one-and-a-half months. Apart from ten deaths, 18 persons were injured in these attacks, including, in some cases, the policemen who tried to save victims from the mob,” he said.
Over 60 persons were arrested in these cases, he added.
Police have appealed to people not to believe rumours circulating on social media, the senior IPS official said.
“We have also issued an advisory and asked police personnel to take measures to prevent such incidents and protect innocent lives,” he said.
“People (who resort to violence) must understand that aggression of a few moments will ruin their lives forever (as they will end up facing criminal cases).
“We have ordered the SPs (superintendents of police) and CPs (commissioners of police) to register cases under section 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of IPC against the members of lynch mobs,” he said.
Asking people not to take law in their hands, he said if they find any suspicious person, they should inform police.
In the July 1 lynching incident in Dhule, where five members of a nomadic tribe were killed on the suspicion of being child lifters, 23 persons were arrested and remanded to police custody, said M Raj Kumar, district SP.