Rainpada, a remote village in Maharashtra became the scene of the brutal deaths of five men as they fell prey to mob violence on the 1st of July when villagers attacked them suspecting that they were child-lifters.
The village of Rainpada now wears a desolated look, for even with a population of 750 only a few elderly people and some women can be spotted as young men have fled the village in wake of the intensified police investigation into the mob killings.
According to police officials and locals, the victims were first attacked by a group of "highly inebriated" people in Kakar pada village. The five men were then brought to the adjoining Rainpada village while being continuously thrashed along the one-km stretch
The mob violence incident shocked the nation as it was yet another case of brutality triggered by social media rumours which have also led to deaths in Guwahati, Tripura and Assam's Karbi Anglong.
According to one of the videos which went viral, the violence was triggered when one of the five victims tried to speak to a six-year-old girl after which the villagers pounced on the men, threw stones at them and thrashed them with sticks and chappals.
The police has arrested 23 people so far and is looking for others who were involved in the incident in the remote village, located around 100 km from the Dhule district headquarters and bordering Gujarat state.
"Our men have left their homes since Sunday and there is no contact with them since. Only the women and a few elderly people are left here now," says 72-year-old Dagubai Gaikwad, a resident of the village. She said since the young men have left, there is nobody to arrange for food and open water supply taps that bring water to the village.
Most of the houses are locked and the narrow lanes empty, with only cattle and livestock roaming around.
Vishwas Gangurde, a member of the panchayat samiti, reiterated that the village has a population of about 750 people, of whom only a dozen old men and women are left.
Mr Gangurde, who was a witness to Sunday's incident, said when the five men were taken to the panchayat samiti office for questioning, people from adjoining villages called up their friends and around 3,000 people gathered and got involved in the mob violence.
"We kept pleading with them not to hit the men but they accused us of taking money from them to save them. They did not want them (victims) to be handed over to the police but kill them there itself. We had to back out when they threatened to kill us too," he said.
"The young men, who fled the village, could not take their elders along with them as they are not physically fit. As a result, they are lying in their homes unable to even walk as they do not have the strength to do so in the absence of food," said 45-year-old Kalgibai Raut, another villager.
Rajubai Kokni, a teacher at the local school in the village, said that out of the total of 102 students enrolled, nobody has turned up to study since the incident.
"I have been coming here since Monday morning but no student turns up. I sit idle all day and close the school at the end of the day," she said.
Ms Kokni said her husband Rajaram was also arrested by the police when he was working at his farm on Sunday.
"Being a Sunday, I had accompanied my husband at the farm as well. We were sowing seeds there when out of nowhere the police personnel came and arrested my husband. I have not heard from him since," she said.
"The main perpetrators were from other villages. However, our men are suffering the most," she alleged.
Ms Kokni stated that since 1st July was a Sunday, people from several adjoining villages had come to the weekly market in Rainpada to buy clothes, vegetables, soaps and oil on display.
Gounda Deshmukh, whose sister's son was arrested by the police, claimed that he was picked up from outside a clinic where he had gone to take medicines. "The police came and randomly caught people and put them in police vans. My sister's son had nothing to do with the lynching," she said.
Dhule Superintendent of Police M Ramkumar said his personnel were trying to distribute food material to the elderly and the women to ensure they do not go hungry.
"We are sharing with villagers the food cooked for our personnel," Mr Ramkumar said.
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