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Palghar mob lynching: Complaint filed against journalists for peddling fake news about BJP sarpanch being arrested for lynching of 2 sadhus

Days after the gruesome incident, social media is rife with half-truths and fake news. Many Internet users, some of them being prominent 'journalists', have partaken in spreading unverified news about the arrests made in the case.

The horrific lynching of two sadhus by a frenzied crowd of more than 100 people in Palghar, Mumbai has shaken the country to its core. The incident happened on April 16 when two sadhus travelling in a car along with their driver were intercepted by the manic crowd in Palghar and brutally hacked to death. Horrifying visuals of the incident had emerged which showed police watching over as the sadhus are subjected to indescribable barbarity by the enraged crowd.

Two Sadhus, 70-year-old Kalpavrishka Giri Maharaj and 35-year-old Sushil Giri Maharaj along with their driver 30-year-old Nilesh Telgade associated with the Juna Akhara and were on their way from Mumbai to Gujarat to give Samadhi to another Sadhu. At Gadakchinchale village, a wild and frenzied crowd of over more than 100 people attacked them. The villagers deemed them as thieves and started attacking them. The police claim that it had arrested more than 100 people who were involved in the unfortunate lynching of the two sadhus and their driver.

Two police officers- Anand Rao Kale, an assistant police inspector, and another sub-inspector have been suspended until an inquiry is conducted into the mob lynching incident that occurred on April 16 in Palghar. They have been suspended with immediate effect for alleged negligence on duty after the lynching of three men in Palghar.

FIR filed against a mob of 400-500 for killing the three men, including 2 sadhus in Palghar

In the FIR, the assistant police inspector Anand Rao Kale, who led the initial response team of the police at the spot claimed that the police were heavily outnumbered as there were about 400 to 500 frenzied people who were baying for the blood of the three individuals. The report mentions that the police team which had reached the location to rescue the victims were also attacked by the mob. When they tried to rescue the victims by putting them in the police vehicle, the mob vandalised the police vehicle and kept attacking the three men with stones. Kale identified five men from the mob of 400-500 and included them in the FIR. They are- Jairam Bhavar (25), Mahesh Sitaram Ravte (19), Ganesh Devji Rao (31), Ramdas Rupji Asare (27) and Sunil Somji Ravte (25).

Offences under IPC sections 302 (murder), 120(B), 427, 147, 148 and 149 have been registered against the five accused along with the mob of 400-500 people. IPC Section 188 has also been invoked in the case due to the coronavirus-enforced lockdown under which sweeping curbs have been imposed on movement and assembly of people, the report said.

Complaint filed against journalists for peddling fake news

However, days after the gruesome incident, social media is rife with half-truths and fake news. Many Internet users, some of them being prominent ‘journalists’, have partaken in spreading unverified news about the arrests made in the case.

Sudhir Suryawanshi, a journalist with the New Indian Express, falsely claimed that the Sarpanch of Gadchinchale village, Chitra Chaudhari, belonging to the BJP, was arrested by the police in connection with the horrid lynching. However, he later issued a clarification that Chaudhari has not been arrested in the matter so far.

Another ‘journalist’, Nikhil Wagle, also shared the unsubstantiated news about the arrest of Sarpanch Chitra Chaudhari in the case.

Aam Aadmi Party leader Vijay Fulara too jumped on the bandwagon of purveying fake news. He posted a tweet claiming BJP Sarpanch Chitra Chaudhari has been arrested by the police in connection with the mob lynching case of 2 sadhus and their driver.

Sawant claimed that the area where the lynching happened has a sarpanch from the BJP and those arrested by the police belong to the BJP.

Now, a complaint has been filed against Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant, journalists Sudhir Suryawanshi and Nikhil Wagle for spreading fake news about the mob lynching of three men, including 2 sadhus, in Palghar. The complainant has alleged in his complaint that these three persons have intentionally put out false information with a malicious intention to create confusion among the public and to instigate a violent reaction against the BJP workers.

The complaint further mentions that these individuals are attempting to create unrest in the society at a time when the government resources are busy in taming the pandemic. It highlights how these individuals are claiming to have information about the identities of those arrested when the police and the home ministry have not yet disclosed the details and identities of those arrested in the mob lynching case.

Citing the Supreme Court of India and Indian Home Ministry’s stern stance against the publication of fake news, the complainant has asked for filing of an FIR against Sachin Sawant, Sudhir Suryawanshi and Nikhil Wagle under the Information Technology Act and several sections of the Indian Penal Code.

Enclosing the pictures of the tweets posted by the aforesaid individuals, the complaint also asks Mumbai Police to investigate if officers involved in handling the Palghar mob lynching case are selectively leaking the information to private individuals and political parties, thereby affecting an impartial and fair probe into the case.

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