None of the 101 people arrested so far for the mob attack on three men in Maharashtra's Palghar district last week are Muslims, state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said today. Mr Deshmukh hit out at the BJP-led opposition in the state for adding a communal twist to the horrific incident and confirmed the case had been given to Maharashtra CID (criminal investigation department).
"101 people have been arrested so far and let me tell you not a single one arrested is Muslim. So don't give this incident a communal colour," the minister said, speaking via Facebook to maintain social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak.
"Some people are seeing 'mungerilal ke haseen sapne' (a pipedream). This is not the time to play politics but to fight (the) coronavirus (outbreak) collectively," he added.
The brutal assault, which took place only 125 kilometres from Mumbai, was likely the result of mistaken identity, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said on Monday; Mr Thackeray also warned against communalising the incident.
A tweet from the Chief Minister's Office read: "Those trying to inflame passions, must desist from doing so. There is no Hindu-Muslim angle or communalism in this attack. Two policemen were suspended immediately".
Shocking visuals of the attack emerged online last week in which angry residents of Gadchinchale village, armed with sticks and stones, attacked three men, one of whom was 70-years-old.
A police team trying to restore order was also attacked and some were injured. Two of the three killed were sadhus, the third was the driver of the car in which they were travelling.
Other videos showed villagers attacking a police car, shattering its windows and windshield, and pushing it till it rolls over.
Police have said there were rumours of thieves taking advantage of the lockdown to break the chain of transmission of the novel coronavirus. According to District Collector Kailash Shinde, there were also rumours of people abducting children from the neighbourhood.
The Maharashtra government has ordered a high-level probe into the attack.
The deceased have been identified as Chikne Maharaj Kalpavrukshagiri (70), Sushilgiri Maharaj (35) and Nilesh Telgade (30).