In the past few weeks, there have been multiple reports of people getting attacked across the country over rumours of child kidnapping. This wave of rumours began circulating after a particular incident in Mathura in which the abduction of a child from Mathura railway station was caught on CCTV and shared widely. Police later found the child in the house of a BJP councilor. Following this, claims about child abductors and organ traders wandering in the guise of sadhus began circulating on social media. In some cases, unrelated and old videos and audio clips were used.
The impact of these rumours was felt largely in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand, where people began attacking any unknown individual or group of people deemed suspicious. The victims included mentally challenged persons and ordinary people. For example, a mentally ill woman was beaten up in Sitapur, UP. Mentally challenged boys were being beaten up on charges of child theft in Bhadohi in UP.
A similar pattern had also been observed in 2019, when people were beaten up in several parts of India over rumours of child theft. Alt News had debunked these rumours back then, and continues to keep an eye on the situation. Taking cognizance of these cases, police have, in many isntances, dismissed the rumours. Sitapur Police, Moradabad Police, Bareilly Police and Hardoi Police have issued statements.
On September 13, news broke of four sadhus being beaten up in Maharashtra’s Sangli district over child theft rumours. The police arrested six people while investigating this case. Reporting on the incident, ABP News aired a video in which a mob is seen beating up sadhus with sticks in front of a shop. ABP News ran the footage as sadhus being thrashed in Maharashtra by locals who mistook them for child kidnappers in Sangli district of Maharashtra. (Archived link)
BREAKING | महाराष्ट्र के सांगली मे साधुओं की पिटाई, स्थानीय लोगों ने बेरहमी से पीटाhttps://t.co/p8nVQWYM7F@surajojhaa | @AnchorSonal95 #Breaking #Maharashtra #Sangli #MaharashtraNews pic.twitter.com/ybjrQd5nN1
— ABP News (@ABPNews) September 13, 2022
News18 India also played several videos claiming this, in which the first is of the mob thrashing sadhus in front of the shop. (Archived link)
महाराष्ट्र के सांगली में बच्चा चोर होने के शक में 4 साधुओं की बेरहमी से पिटाई, मथुरा के रहने वाले हैं साधु, विडियो वायरल #ChildTheft #ChildLifter #BachchaChor #Maharashtra #Sangli #Sadhu pic.twitter.com/BE73hJlIl5
— News18 India (@News18India) September 14, 2022
Times Now Navbharat also amplified this video with the same claim. (Archived link)
#BreakingNow: महाराष्ट्र के सांगली में साधुओं से मारपीट, बच्चा चोरी की अफवाह में साधुओं को पीटा @iamdeepikayadav #Sangli #Maharashtra pic.twitter.com/VWqrnwbQXH
— Times Now Navbharat (@TNNavbharat) September 14, 2022
Several news outlets followed suit, including Aaj Tak, Republic Live, News18 Lokmat, RSS mouthpiece Organiser Weekly, Zee Salaam, Maharashtra Times, India TV Hindi, Bharat 24, Amar Ujala, right-wing portal OpIndia, and The Lallantop. Navbharat Times journalists ‘Bhadohi Wala’ and Alok Kumar along with India TV Hindi journalist Vikash Tiwary and ISKCON vice-president and spokesperson Radharaman Das also shared the video claiming the incident was from Sangli.
Alt News had already investigated the video in question a few days ago. However, other media organisations remained oblivious to this and amplified the video without prior verification.
Actually, this video is not from the incident in Sangli district of Maharashtra, nor were the sadhus seen in it beaten up due to the allegation of child theft. The real incident took place in Maharashtra’s Raisen district. IBC24 reported on the incident on August 8, 2022. According to the caption, it took place in Raisen where a group of men had come to commit theft disguised as sadhus. They were later attacked by villagers.
Navbharat Times also reported about this incident on August 7. According to the article, some sadhus had robbed a woman after knocking her unconscious in Paloha, located in the Mandideep police station area of Raisen district. The perpetrators, who were dressed as sadhus, stole jewellery and cash from the woman’s house. The villagers tried to find them and discovered they were staying in Pipaliya Gajju village, adjacent to Paloha. After thrashing the sadhus, the locals handed them over to the police. Mandideep Police registered a case against six people in this case and started an investigation. The article quoted police as saying that the accused were residents of Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh.
In its coverage of the incident, One India shared a few screengrabs from the video. Police have identified the accused as Bacchu Joshi, Lovelesh Goswami, Mithilesh Goswami, MLA Goswami, Gulab Joshi and Ramswaroop Goswami.
Alt News also reached out to the Mandideep Police Station for more information. SHO Manoj Singh told us that the accused were there to are known to commit some petty theft, disguising as sadhus. The villagers caught and beat them up. They were later taken into custody.
Alt News also spoke to Raisen SP Vikas Kumar Sehwal. The police officer told us that the incident was not one of sadhus trying to kidnap children. He said that the sadhus had come to the village to perform a pooja. They asked a woman for gold and silver jewellery for the ceremony. They stole those ornaments and fled. Police registered a case and sent the accused to jail.
In other words, this incident is actually from the Paloha village located in Maharashtra’s Raisen district in which locals nabbed a group of thieves who were dressed as sadhus. A video of this was falsely promoted by media organisations as sadhus being beaten up in Maharashtra’s Sangli district over suspicions of child theft.
At the same time, such incidents are nothing new. Media outlets have often aired visuals accompanied by misleading claims without verifying them first. Alt News has debunked such fake news circulated by other outlets several times in the past.
Independent journalism that speaks truth to power and is free of corporate and political control is possible only when people start contributing towards the same. Please consider donating towards this endeavour to fight fake news and misinformation.