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By Bappaditya Paul

Kolkata/Malda: The rumour of child-lifters roaming about the district has turned Malda in north Bengal into a potential danger zone for strangers and the mentally challenged.

In the past fortnight or so, as many as six youths have been subjected to mob assault on the suspicion of being child-lifters. One youth has even been lynched.

In the latest case today, a youth was stripped naked and assaulted publicly by a mob of over a hundred people at Chatianmore village in Old Malda. This after someone alleged that he was trying to lure away a boy of class VI.

The mob got so furious that when a team from Mangalbari police post reached the spot, the cops were overpowered and the police vehicle damaged. Subsequent to this, reinforcement rushed in from Malda police station and rescued the youth in an unconscious state.

The inspector-in-charge of Malda police station Manabendra Saha has informed that the youth has been admitted to Malda Medical College and Hospital and they could not ascertain his identity as yet.

Local sources said that the youth, who is in his 30’s, had rented a room at Chatianmore and used to run a coaching centre for school children there. A few days ago he was accused of trying to lure away a student of him by allegedly promising him giving a smartphone.

Sensing trouble, the youth shut the coaching centre for a few days. He reopened the coaching centre today assuming that the matter has died down. Amidst this, someone from the neighbourhood raised a fresh alarm saying that he was trying to lure away another boy.

Already fed by WhatsApp messages about child-lifters roaming about Malda, the information spread like a wildfire and soon over a hundred people caught the youth. They took him to the village centre, stripped him naked, and started beating with wooden sticks and serving punches and kicks.

This comes close on the wheels on a mentally challenged youth from Purnia in Bihar, who had wandered into Malda town, being subjected to a mob assault yesterday accusing him of being a child-lifter. On 13 June, another mentally retarded youth was lynched at Habibpur in Malda on the suspicion that he is a child-lifter.

Despite this ever-growing mob assault, the police or civil administration in Malda district is yet to take an organised effort to dissuade the mass hysteria about so-called child-lifters.