Man killed over kidnapping rumours as mob attacks soar in India

A photo taken in Kolkata, India, on July 27 shows people protesting against recent mob lynchings.
A photo taken in Kolkata, India, on July 27 shows people protesting against recent mob lynchings.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian police said on Thursday (Sept 5) that five people had been arrested for lynching a man after accusing him of kidnapping children, the latest in a renewed string of attacks fuelled by malicious rumour-mongering.

Some 150 people have been attacked recently across the country based on false kidnapping reports, some of them shared on WhatsApp, leaving the authorities in a fix.

Since Aug 1, at least nine people have died and 135 others injured in mob attacks, according to figures collated by local media.

Police said in the latest incident, a mob set upon the 45-year-old man in eastern Jharkhand state late on Tuesday, thrashing him with sticks and shoes.

"The rumour was going around in the village about child lifters roaming in the area. We have arrested five persons in the case," senior local police officer Prabhat Kumar told AFP by telephone.

The attack came on the heels of six persons being thrashed in the same state on Monday.

A pregnant deaf and mute woman was also attacked in New Delhi in late August, with the mob wrongly believing she was involved in kidnapping.

Lynchings are nothing new in India, but the spread of smartphones to even the most remote corners has enabled rumours to be shared at lightning speed and in huge volumes.

 
 

The spate of attacks related to hoaxes about child abduction began last year, prompting WhatsApp to roll out new safeguards - including limiting the number of users a message can be forwarded to.

The Facebook-owned platform, which has some 200 million users in India, also ran newspaper advertisements to raise awareness about fake news.

In the latest Jharkhand incident, however, police said the rumour had not originated on WhatsApp.