On the evening of 16th April, a small village in Maharashtra’s Palghar district reported a brutal lynching of three people including a 70-year old man. The horrific videos of the incident went viral where an armed mob could be seen beating them with sticks and stones. The villagers in the tribal dominated area mistook them for thieves. A rumour that unidentified people in disguise were roaming in the area with an eye to kidnap children to harvest their organs before the incident took place was doing the rounds. Two among the three killed were Hindu ascetics, the third was the driver of the van they were travelling in.
According to sources, they were travelling to Gujarat to attend a funeral. The three who were killed have been identified as Nilesh Telgane (35), who was driving the care they were travelling in, and Chikane Maharaj Kalpavrikshgiri (70).
As soon as the videos of the incident made it to various social media sites, people started sharing the video with blatant communal narratives to disrupt the communal disharmony. The two Hindu ascetics were wearing faded saffron colored clothes. People thought that this was a communally charged attack. Social media was flooded with communal rhetoric. Post the incident this became a Hindu vs Muslim issue. Even several prominent social media users without some fact checking shared the video with communally charged narratives. Film director Ashoke Pandit was one among them. He claimed that the accused involved in the incident was a person named “Shoaib”. Suresh Chavhanke, the editor-in-chief of Sudarshan News, also claimed that he is able to hear the word “Shoaib” in the video.
Later on Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh took to twitter to inform that there was nothing communal about the incident and unveiled the name of the accused to buttress his claim. He fruther added that the victims and the accused belong to the same religion.
India is under a complete lockdown due to COVID-19 since the mid night of 24th-25th March. The virus has infected as many as 23,077 and killed 721 people. The lock down which has been brought into effect with no proper plan before hand has wrecked havoc on the toiling mass. The situation we are undergoing needs a unified fight to halt the spread of this virus. Spreading a fake news to stoke communal disharmony in a situation like this is to adding insult to injury.