Stop the rumour mill that fuels lynchings

Updated: Apr 30, 2020, 07:17 IST | The Editorial | Mumbai

They could then hold meetings of people dispelling and squashing dangerous, loose talk. An aggressive truth campaign can be started

File pic
File pic

On April 16, two priests and their young driver travelling in a car from Mumbai to Surat were lynched to death by a frenzied mob in Gadchinchale village, Palghar district. This paper has been closely following the sequence of events, including interviews with the family of the slain, and the political brouhaha that followed.

While it is learnt that the men became the target of an enraged and armed mob, it is clear that they were fuelled by rumours and in some cases by alcohol too. Locals claim talk about child kidnappers and organ sellers was doing the rounds. There were also rumours about outsiders coming into the village and spreading Coronavirus.

We now have to think and put into place some kind of gameplan, so that such incidents do not occur again. Having said that, it is also understood that there is no guarantee, and one acknowledges that it is very difficult to control a mob baying for blood.

This does not mean that we cannot try and learn from some takeaways of this crime. Police and leaders must act proactively the next time any rumours start swirling around. This could be done by putting signboards in areas or making announcements to dispel rumours. The frontline of the tribal community and villagers, those who command respect could be roped in at an early stage by authorities as allies. They could then hold meetings of people dispelling and squashing dangerous, loose talk. An aggressive truth campaign can be started.

Action against culprits stoking irresponsible fires can be part of the rebuff-the-rumour strategy. All this should be driven by those who have won the trust of the people. All easy to say, but worth giving a shot. The key seems to be not to be reactive and try to pacify an already charged, unmanageable group, but, proactive so that there is a strategy in place to scotch lies and wilful attempts to misguide.

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