NEW DELHI — Villagers in India's northeastern state of Assam killed three men on Wednesday, as rumors of a mysterious and most likely fictitious band of “dark, nude” marauders roaming the countryside and raping women sparked widespread paranoia.
Members of a village defense committee in Sonitpur district lynched the three men after they were caught loitering near the city of Tezpur, the Times of India reported. They weren't naked, and nobody worked too hard to find out if they were rapists. But they were allegedly car thieves, according to the paper.
Vigilantes patroling the area stopped the vehicle the alleged thieves were traveling in near a local police post in the wee hours of the night and accused them of being the “naked men,” India Today reported, citing the vigilantes as saying the alleged thieves attacked them first.
Chances are the naked rapists don't exist, police believe.
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Like the “monkey man” whispered to be stalking the streets of Delhi in 2001, the naked rapists defy description — apart from “dark and nude” — because the authorities are woefully short of eye-witnesses.
"Such a rumor is doing the rounds but no one has actually seen any nude men. We are visiting every village to tell people to exercise restraint," Tezpur deputy police commissioner Tapan Chandra Sarmah told India Today.
But that hasn't stopped villagers from taking up arms.
"We have been told that male members of villages have been forced to patrol the villages at night by women. There are some stories about dark, nude men knocking on doors at night and attacking women of the house. Some say the attackers have even bit off parts of the victims' bodies but no one has reported any such incident to police or gone to hospital," a local source claimed.
Sarmah on Wednesday appealed to the public to ignore the rumors and disband their vigilante groups, saying that the district administration would make a similar announcement through the public address systems in all the local villages.
On the other hand, he's also intensifying patrols at night in the villages — just in case.