Drug dealers in Madhya Pradesh circulated rumors of a “child-lifter,” prompting a mob to assault a female police officer and her squad.

INDORE: A woman police officer and her team, who had gone to arrest drug peddlers in Sondwa area of Alirajpur in Madhya Pradesh, were attacked by villagers on Monday evening on a rumour spread by the drug peddlers that she was a child lifter. The team was rescued by Dhar police.The incident happened in Hatvi village, around 215km from Indore and close to the Maharashtra border.Shraddha Sonkar, the subdivisional police officer (SDPO) of Alirajpur, led a team to Hatvi to arrest drug peddlers as part of a crackdown ordered by CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The cops had gone in plainclothes as they were on the trail of drug smugglers, following a tipoff, said Dilip Singh Bilwal, SDPO of Kukshi in neighbouring Dhar district.The accused got wind of the police operation and spread a rumor that a woman had come to the village with her accomplices to steal children. The rumour spread like wildfire and a mob of villagers attacked the police team, who were still in their vehicle. The cops tried to escape east towards Dhar district but the rumors had spread so rapidly in the region that villagers pelted stones at the vehicle when they passed through half a dozen villages, especially Arada and Fifeda, up to 30km away. The windshield of the unmarked police vehicle was smashed in the stone pelting. The beleaguered cops called for help and the SOS reached Kukshi inspector Brijesh Malviya and SDOP Dilip Singh Bilwal, who raced to the rescue with a strong posse. They escorted the team to Kukshi police station at 10.30pm. However, hundreds of villagers surrounded the police station demanding the immediate arrest of the ‘child thief ’. It was only after they were told that the woman was a police officer that the mob dispersed. In the wee hours of Tuesday, Alirajpur SP Manoj Kumar Singh led a team to the same village and launched a massive crackdown on villagers who had grown cannabis plants on their farmland and arrested several of them. In June 2018, a woman forest range officer and a forest guard were beaten mercilessly by a mob in Singrauli district after being taken for child lifters, thanks to a social media rumour. Officer Trusthi Singh and guard Brijesh Bagri were in civvies, on trail of a poacher, when they were attacked.

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