News Analysis |
Police in India have arrested at least 18 people for the mob-style lynchings of two sightseers, attacks that were believed to have been fueled by social media posts. The two latest victims have been identified as Nilotpal Das, an audio engineer and Abijeet Nath, a digital artist – both residents of Guwahati, the largest city in Assam.
A mob of around 200 people beat Abhijit Nath and Nilotpal Das to death over the weekend after rumors circulated on social media they were child traffickers. The rumors were circulated mostly on WhatsApp, officials said.
“We have taken strict measures against the culprits and arrested 18 individuals,” Director General of Assam Police Kuladhar Saikia told Al Jazeera. “We have also arrested some persons who were involved in spreading rumors on social media.”The arrests came after public outrage of the killings.
A message has gone viral on social media claiming members of Pardhi gang who are kidnapping children have entered the two states. The message also says the gang is killing children to harvest their organs.
“Mob lynching is a primal instinct,” Guwahati activist Tinat Atifa Masood said. “No one knows why they are lynching, but all seem to be cast under a spell to kill.” The victims arrived in the Panijuri village the night before the attacks to see a nearby waterfall, the Telegraph India reported. Officers said they blamed the killings on “fake news” that spread on social media about foreign child kidnappers abducting children in the country.
Among those arrested was Bhupendra Terang, who was booked for posting the rumors online. The weekend killings are the latest tied to WhatsApp. Six people have died in recent weeks in cases that include the app in some fashion, officials said.
“I urge everyone to maintain peace and social harmony and not to fall prey to rumors,” Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal posted on Twitter. “We won’t spare anyone and strictest of punishment will be given to the culprits.”
Earlier, An Indian transgender has been beaten to death over rumors on the social media sphere that the person was the member of a child-lifting gang. The member of the transgender community named, Chandraiah, was undergoing treatment in Osmania General Hospital. Commissioner of Police, Anjani Kumar said that the rumor was spread through a WhatsApp group and at least 15 people have been arrested so far.
On 12th May, A 65-year-old woman was lynched by a mob in southern India who believed that she was a child trafficker, police said on Friday, announcing the arrests of some two dozen suspects. The crime took place in the state of Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvannamalai district on Wednesday following rumours and false messages on Facebook and WhatsApp about the kidnapping of children in the region.
The two latest victims have been identified as Nilotpal Das, an audio engineer and Abijeet Nath, a digital artist – both residents of Guwahati, the largest city in Assam.
The woman, who was travelling with her relatives in a car, had stopped to ask directions to a local temple when she saw some children playing in the area and gave them chocolates, local police officer K Neelavadakkan said. “Villagers who have been unnerved by the fake messages on child abductions gathered around the car and started shouting at them, accusing them of being child kidnappers,” he said.
“They managed to drive away but were blocked by mobs a short distance away, where they were dragged out, punched and kicked, and beaten by sticks. The woman died on the scene, while four others, including the driver, were seriously injured,” he added. Neelavadakkan said that there had been no incidents of kidnapping or child trafficking in the area, but rumours were circulating wildly.
Last month, a man was mistaken for a thief and beaten to death by crowds in the same state. Madhu, a 27-year-old who lived in a tribal colony in Attapady forest, was beaten under the suspicion that he was a thief. Madhu died inside the police van while being taken to the police station. Last year, mobs killed six people in the eastern state of Jharkhand on suspicions that they had kidnapped children.
A message has gone viral on social media claiming members of Pardhi gang who are kidnapping children have entered the two states. The message also says the gang is killing children to harvest their organs. Both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana police have clarified that there is no such movement of an inter-state gang and there have been no cases of kidnapping reported here.