An incident of a child kidnapping from Mathura railway station has created a lot of panic in and around the area. On August 24, a video of a man abducting a 4-month-old infant from Mathura railway station went viral. Police later found the child in a BJP councilor’s home. Since then, multiple reports have emerged about people thrashing unknown persons in several areas on the suspicion of child kidnapping. Two such videos are being circulated widely on WhatsApp. It has been claimed that the men seen in the clips are child kidnappers disguised as sadhus.
Along with these videos, an audio clip, too, is being shared in which a person is requesting people not to send their children outside alone as the police have reportedly announced that 400 to 500 goons have entered the area and are kidnapping children for organ trading. In addition, the voice on the clip says that these child thieves are disguising themselves as pheriwalas, junk sellers, sadhus and fakirs. The recording ends with the man saying, “Audio Recording Abrar Chhotu, Sitapur”.
Both the videos being shared with the child theft claim feature a shop in the background with a board that reads – “Harisuman Kirana & General Stores”.
Using this as a clue, Alt News performed a keyword search on YouTube. This led us to a video report by IBC24 dated August 8, 2022. This includes the video shared on WhatsApp. According to the caption, this incident took place in Raisen in central Madhya Pradesh where a group of people tried to commit a theft while being disguised as sadhus. Later, the villagers beat them up with sticks.
Navbharat Times 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 discovered they were staying in Pipaliya Gajju village, adjacent to Paloha. After thrashing the sadhus, the locals handed them over to the police. The Mandideep Police registered a case against six people and started an investigation. The article quoted the police as saying that the accused were residents of Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh.
One India also covered the incident. The article quoted the police as saying that the accused, Bacchu Joshi, Lovelesh Goswami, Mithilesh Goswami, Vidayak Goswami, Gulab Joshi and Ramswaroop Goswami, residents of Bandhavgarh in Uttar Pradesh, had gone to Polaha village to beg for alms. Upon seeing the pictures included in the article, it becomes evident that both the videos shared on WhatsApp are from the incident in Raisen.
Alt News reached out to the Mandideep Police Station for more information on this. SHO Manoj Singh told us that these accused, disguised as sadhus, were known to commit petty thefts. The villagers caught and beat them up. Police registered a case and sent them to jail.
Alt News also spoke to Raisen SP Vikas Kumar Sehwal. The SP told us that this incident did not involve sadhus trying to kidnap children. He said that these sadhus had come to the village to perform a pooja. They asked the woman for gold and silver jewellery for the ceremony. They stole those ornaments and fled. After registering a complaint in the matter, the police sent the accused to jail.
There is no concrete evidence of the claims made in the viral audio clip regarding child theft. Taking cognizance of such rumours, the SP of Sitapur issued a video statement. He made an appeal to locals not to pay heed to the rumours of child theft and inform the police about such rumours.
@Uppolice जनपद में बच्चे चोर की अफवाह फैल रही है कृपया ऐसी अफवाहों पर ध्यान न दें एवं आमजनमस से अपील है कि कानून को अपने हाथों में न लें यदि किसी प्रकार की कोई सूचना मिले तो तत्काल अपने निकटतम थाना/चौकी क्षेत्र व डायल 112 को सूचना दें,इस संबंध में #SP_Sitapur द्वारा दी गई बाइट। pic.twitter.com/YLlgyxQ5Zj
— Sitapur Police (@sitapurpolice) August 26, 2022
In other words, these videos do not feature child kidnappers in the guise of sadhus. In reality, locals from a village in Raisen nabbed a group of thieves who were dressed as sadhus.
Photos of sadhus shared as child kidnappers in Varanasi
बच्चा चोरी के आरोप में दो साधुओं को पुलिस ने लिया हिरासत में https://t.co/MyR1GXTJyr
— Prakhar Purvanchal (@PrakharPurv) August 30, 2022
Another website named KTG Samachar also covered the incident. According to the article, this incident took place in the Phulpur police station area of the Varanasi district.
Alt News contacted the Phulpur police station. SHO Jagdish Kushwaha informed us that there was no incident of child theft. People suspected two sadhus and informed the police about them. The SHO added, “We called these two sadhus to the police station. We came to know that they were residents of Punjab. The sadhus spoke to both the village head and the police regarding the matter, but we didn’t find anything suspicious. They were later released.”
It is worth noting that in the past, mobs have beaten up mentally ill or suspicious individuals over child theft rumours. Alt News has continued to report the reality behind such incidents to the public. There have also been incidents in the past where people have been lynched on the basis of rumours.
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.