Indian state cuts Internet after 3 new lynchings

Fatal beatings by mobs in Tripura sparked by false rumours spread via smartphones

NEW DELHI • The authorities in north-eastern India have cut Internet access after crazed mobs beat three people to death in the latest cases of lynchings sparked by false rumours spread on smartphones, officials said.

The killings are just the latest in India to be sparked by false rumours about gangs of child kidnappers spreading like wildfire on smartphone messaging service WhatsApp in recent months.

The victims are usually not locals. People have also been beaten to death on suspicion of stealing cattle.

"The administration has decided to cut off the Internet and mobile messaging services for the next 48 hours... to stop rumour-mongering," Mr Smriti Ranjan Das, a police spokesman in the tribal-dominated state of Tripura, said yesterday.

The victims, one of whom was tasked by the authorities with warning people against hoaxes, died in three separate incidents on Thursday.

Locals in Sabroom, some 130km from state capital Agartala, attacked Mr Sukanta Chakraborty with sticks and bricks as he was warning people on a megaphone against fake information.

Tripura police said it was unclear what sparked the attack.

Mr Das said that the man died on the spot and his driver was injured in a frenzied attack that lasted nearly an hour.

"It was a sudden and vicious attack and they didn't get time to escape. Our teams... could only rescue the driver," Mr Das said.

Hours before, in West Tripura district south of Agartala, a nearly 1,000-strong mob attacked four traders from northern Uttar Pradesh state, killing one and leaving the others critically injured.

The four took refuge inside a paramilitary camp after hundreds of people, believing them to be child kidnappers, chased their vehicle when they stopped for a tea break on a road.

But the mob entered the base and dragged all four from the car, attacking them with sticks and rods as soldiers unsuccessfully tried to break up the crowd with warning shots. Mr Das identified the victim as Mr Zahir Khan. A soldier was also critically injured.

Hours before, in the same area, a mob set upon an unidentified woman after she was spotted by residents walking around their village, Mr Das said.

No arrests have been made in the cases.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2018, with the headline 'Indian state cuts Internet after 3 new lynchings'. Print Edition | Subscribe