Police in Assam have arrested a 30-year-old man alleged to be the prime accused in the lynching of two men, who were killed last week on suspicion of being “child lifters” in the state’s Karbi Anglong district, a senior official said on Wednesday.
“He is the prime instigator of the incident. It is him who made that phone call to the villagers spreading the rumour of the presence of two child lifters,” director general of police Kuladhar Saikia said.
Alphajoz Timung was apprehended on Tuesday night after being on the run for a few days since the lynching.
“He was on the run on his motorbike within a geographical area of 20 square kilometres. We managed to track him down through the three cell phones he was carrying,” a senior police official said.
Nilotpal Das, a Goa-based sound engineer, and Guwahati-based businessman Abhijeet Das were on their way to a popular waterfall in Kangthilangso on June 8 when they were lynched by approximately 250 locals in Panjari Kachari village on suspicion of being “child lifters”.
Police have so far arrested 28 people for their alleged role in the killings, additional director general of police Mukesh Agarwal said.
Timung, according to an investigator, was the person who interacted with Das and Nath, close to the waterfall in Kangthilangso village before they were attacked. The resident of Kangthilangso also allegedly called another villager in Panjuri Kachari, saying child lifters travelling in a black Scorpio will soon pass through the village and they should be stopped.
“Most of the people in the custody have said the attack was a result of the phone call made by Timung,” a police official said.
Assam has been buffeted by a spate of rumours on Facebook and WhatsApp in the last few days with fake photographs of child lifters. The rumours have led to many attacks including the killings in Karbi Anglong. Social media platforms have been flooded with posts and photos since the attack in the tribal-dominated Karbi Anglong.
Around 40 people have been arrested across Assam so far for spreading rumours about child lifting gangs and hate messages on social media.
“Over the past three days we have been able to identify and initiate action against around 100 profiles on Facebook and Twitter,” Harmeet Singh, additional director general of police, said.
He also said that they have also written to the central government to approach Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for action. The local police have given the Centre a list of posts and videos they want to be taken off the social media platforms.
Singh said police are not waiting for a response from the platforms, which have not helped so far, but using the publicly available information to get through to the culprits.
A person was apprehended from Nagaon after he incited people to travel to Karbi Anglong in big groups on WhatsApp. He was detained only after the police were tipped off about the message and got in touch with another person, who was part of the WhatsApp group where the message was shared.