But for the much-maligned social media, the brutal killing of two sadhus and their driver in Palghar, Maharashtra, would not have been brought to national attention. It was only after videos of the lynching went viral that the state government, slumbering until then, was forced to sit up and take notice. Preliminary investigation says the trio fell victim to mistaken identity. Palghar district, carved out of Thane near Mumbai, has a large tribal population. There had been rumours that organ harvesting gangs, child lifters and thieves were operating in the area, especially at night, for which the locals had formed vigilante groups. The sadhus and their driver were accosted at a forest where they were killed.
The government has arrested over 100 people and suspended two policemen but the incident has uncovered shocking lapses on the part of the district administration and police. Before this lynching, there had already been two cases of attacks, the first on a local activist and the second on the police itself. With past knowledge of violence by these vigilante groups, the police should have immediately realised the gravity of the situation when they were alerted about this attack. They should have sent a large- enough force to deter the attackers but, according to media reports, only about five policemen were sent to investigate the matter. With a gang of 450 lathi-wielding men baying for blood, the policemen were hopelessly outnumbered and failed to prevent the lynching. Clearly, there has been dereliction from the bottom to the highest level in the district.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has said there is no communal angle to the incident. Indeed there is none and attempts to inject it should be treated with contempt. But the lack of outrage among some political parties, opinion makers and concerned citizens only underlines their duplicity. Had the victims been from the minority community, there would have been a huge hue and cry. But quite expectedly, that has not been the case with the Palghar incident. Even one life lost to such madness is deplorable, no matter that person’s faith, belief, creed or race.