GUWAHATI, Sept 9 - Panic has gripped several parts of Tinsukia following rumours of sighting of sopadhoras (child lifters), tantriks, pisol manuh (�slippery men�) and other �supernatural beings� since the last fortnight.
Panic-stricken people have been accosting strangers, detaining them and even assaulting them at places like Kakopathar, Lekhapani, Margherita, Bordubi and Doomdooma, prompting the administration to hold a series of awareness meetings across the district.
�Tinsukia is the last railway station in this part of the country. Many vagrants and tramps land up here and move around in the district. They are not known to the locals and their activities, too, are weird. Frequent sighting of such people may be a reason behind the rumours,� said Tinsukia Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Suprotive Lal Baruah who participated in a number of awareness meetings in the district over the last few days.
�If you tell the villagers that these are mere rumours, they get angry and instead accuse the security forces of complicity. They claim they have seen sopadhoras and other such �beings� who later vanish into the forests. Some say they have seen suspicious men driving tractors at night as well,� the DSP added.
Special DG (Law & Order) Kuladhar Saikia, who visited the district on Thursday, discussed the issue with organisations and public representatives, seeking their cooperation in dispelling the fear out of the minds of the people.
A DSP was also detained and his vehicle attacked by agitated people at Borali in Kakopathar recently.
Sources in the administration hinted that antisocial elements, particularly those involved in illicit country liquor and drug trade, as well as the ULFA(I) could be behind the rumours.
�In some villages, people are accusing the police of creating the situation. As a result, the police are keeping away from such areas to avoid confrontation. This might be a tactic of antisocial elements to keep the security forces away from their dens,� said a district administration official. These areas, mostly the interior parts where there is lack of information and awareness, are known to be an ULFA(I) hotbed.
Social activist Dibyajyoti Saikia, who has also been holding meetings in the district to create awareness, said there could be a conspiracy to create mistrust in the minds of the people against the security forces.
�On September 3, there was unrest at Dhulijan in Doomdooma over the rumours of pisol manuh. A team of Army personnel, which rushed to the area following the reports, came under the attack of locals. The Army personnel were forced to fire some rounds in the air,� Saikia said, adding that there have been repeated incidents of attacks on strangers, including women, by villagers.
Police said rumours have also spread via the social media, thus aggravating the problem.