Mumbai, June 29: Is WhatsApp the new information centre where every message circulated is believed to be true? The current trend of mob lynchings across India indicates it is. At least 24 lynchings have been reported over the past one year and 16 in just the past one month. These killings have been reported from all parts of India - North, South, East, West. And what is even more shameful is that all of these are the result of similar WhatsApp messages on child theft, modified according to a place.
The message in Karnataka read, "Guys please be on high alert. Three kids were kidnapped from my friend’s area this morning.. There were 10 guys giving biscuits and people from that area have caught all 10 n 5 more based on their info...Cops arrived at scene and informed that 400 people have landed in Bangalore for child trafficking. Check my next video and repost. Parents pls be on high alert." Similar messages are spreading like wildfire at different places.
The latest case of lynching based on suspicion of child theft after rumours spread on social media has come from Tripura. One person was murdered by a mob and two others were injured in Tripura on Thursday, June 28 on suspicion of being child-lifters. The three, identified as Zahid Khan (deceased), Gulzan Ahmed Khan and Khursheed (injured) from Uttar Pradesha and Bihar.
A 45-year-old woman beggar in Ahmedabad, identified as Shantadevi Nath, was lynched by a mob of around 700 people on June 27. She was killed after the mob suspected her to be a child-abductor. Police said the mob lynching was a result of rumours floating on the social media about an alleged child-lifting racket operating in Ahmedabad.
A mob in Chhattisgarh's Surguja district lynched a mentally unstable youth to death on suspicion of child-lifting on June 22. Police said that locals in parts of Ambikapur region had been gripped with panic over the presence of an alleged child-lifting gang which is aiming to abduct their children and sell their kidneys. On Friday, June 22, locals spotted the mentally challenged youth in Mendakalan village. On being quizzed about his whereabouts, the victim failed to give answers. This further fueled the suspicion of villagers who assaulted him with bamboo sticks.
On June 8, two friends Nilotpal Das and Abhijeet Nath had gone to Kangthilangso waterfall in Karbi Anglong district. While returning, their vehicle was stopped at Panjuri Kachari by villagers, who pulled them out of the car and beat them for hours before killing them suspecting them as child-lifters.
The brutal killing was recorded by locals on their mobile phones and circulated on social media.
On May 25 in Bengaluru, 26-year old Kalu Ramu was lynched by an angry mob mistaking him for a child-lifter. 14 people which include 4 women and 2 minors have been arrested in connection with this lynching. Kalu Ramu was seen as a threat to the children by the people of Anjanappa Garden in Chamarajpet, when he was allegedly distributing chocolates and sweets to a few children.
Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu
Similar incidents have been reported from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu over the past one month. All murders, based on WhatsApp messages, social media rumours and suspicion. In not one of these cases has there been any proof of the victim being a "child-lifter."
There is a trend that has been noticed in all of these messages. It is that the message incites people of a state or area against people of an "outside" community. In fact, in Hyderabad, the message targeted transgenders as being "child-lifters", following which one transgender was lynched by a mob and two were seriously injured.
It is a dangerous trend that people seem to be believing what they read on WhatsApp or other social media means and taking the law into their own hands. Not one person in the accused mobs knows where the messages have been originating from and nobody has bothered to go to police to get the source and veracity checked. People are being murdered based on mere suspicion.
It is true that when it comes to your child's security, right or wrong is not a consideration. But killing somebody else's children based on rumours will only spread the lynch mentality. If you receive such a message, go to a nearby police station, get the message verified, ask the police to find out the source and increase security in your area. Attacking a random person based on a WhatsApp rumour won't make your child safe.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jun 29, 2018 11:02 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).