A 26-year-old construction labourer from Rajasthan, identified as Kalu Ram, who had come to look for work was tied with a rope, dragged through the streets of Chamarajpet in west Bengaluru. Beaten with bats and other household ‘weapons’, he succumbed to his injuries.
According to Additional Commissioner (West) BK Singh, India saw a similar kind of ‘madness’ 20 years ago with the ‘Ganesha drinking milk’ rumour, but WhatsApp has taken it to a dangerous new height.
“This hapless man was walking alone. Two persons standing there saw him and started following him to a shop just 100 metres away. Suddenly, a crowd gathered. People brought whatever they could find in their homes — cricket bats, stumps, ropes etc,” Singh says.
“Once a crowd becomes a mob, you cannot control it. Many of them may be meek persons individually, but they are taken in by the presence of the mob. The mob thinks that if they act collectively, police won’t act and they can get away easily,” Singh adds.
People brought whatever they could find in their homes — cricket bats, stumps, ropes etc.
Around 20 people were arrested based on CCTV footage and videos taken by bystanders, who did nothing to help the hapless victim. One of the main accused is 26-year-old Anbu, who has other criminal cases pending against him. Four women and a minor were among those in custody. All of them face murder charges now.
The spread of the fake news in Tamil Nadu may also have led to the violence.
Pension Mohalla in Bakshi Garden where the attack took place has a dominant Tamil population. Some of them could have been aware of the rumours before it made its way to Bengaluru. When the WhatsApp messages started doing the Silicon Valley’s rounds, it may have been perceived as a confirmation of the fake news.
Another person was killed under similar circumstances in Salem. The state witnessed seven more such attacks.
The latest casualty of the fake news was reported in Assam, again a state which deals with anti-migrant sentiment.
On June 8, two youths from Guwahati were battered to death in Karbi Anglong district on suspicion of being child lifters. Police said Abhijit Nath and Nilutpal Das were on their way to the Kanthe Langshu picnic spot when their vehicle was attacked by a group of men at Panjuri Kachari village, 16 km from Dokmoka town.
Eyewitnesses said the two boys were brutally beaten with bamboo poles and wood, and tortured to death by a mob of allegedly inebriated villagers.
“It happened when some locals informed a group of villagers about two men travelling in a black car with an abducted child. These few villagers were drinking in the roadside dhaba and immediately called upon more people to trace the car and catch them. The mob stopped the car and surrounded the two boys inside. The village elders tried to stop them from beating the boys, but they would not listen,” said a local shopkeeper.
The two boys were brutally beaten with bamboo poles and wood, and tortured to death by a mob of allegedly inebriated villagers.
This incident was yet again preceded by paranoia fuelled by WhatsApp forwards. The messages warned people of ‘sopadhora’ (child lifters) being on the prowl. Many in Karbi Anglong, one of the most backward areas of the country, took those messages as gospel.
“We have arrested 35 people so far. Some of them are directly involved in the attack, while one has been arrested for posting objectionable content on social media, inciting communal violence soon after the incident took place. There’s no substance to the rumour of ‘sopadhora’ (child lifters) in the area. But it had created a fear psychosis among people here,” says Agarwal.
A 45-year-old woman beggar was lynched and three others seriously injured in Ahmedabad on 26th June when a group of nearly 30 people allegedly thrashed them on suspicion of being child lifters.
Shanta Devi Nath from Sardarnagar area of the city along with Ashudevi Nath, Liladevi Nath and Anasi Nath were passing through Ahmedabad’s Vadaj area in an auto when a mob caught hold of them and began beating them up on suspicion that they were kidnappers. Soon, more residents joined in with sticks till traffic officers posted at a nearby signal rushed to the spot and rescued the women, following which the police was informed.
Even as a few policemen of the Traffic branch tried to rescue the women, they had already received grievous injuries.
Vadaj police station inspector J A Rathwa said that their team rushed the women to Civil Hospital, where Devi was declared dead on arrival, while the other women are undergoing treatment. The police officer added that all women stayed at a slum in Sardarnagar and primarily depended on begging for their living.
“Even as a few policemen of the Traffic branch tried to rescue the women, they had already received grievous injuries. In fact, the deceased had become unconscious when an ambulance arrived at the spot,” Rathwa said.
The latest casualty of the fake news was reported in Tripura.
One person was lynched in Tripura on suspicion of being a child lifter while two others were critically injured. All of them were from Uttar Pradesh.
The Tripura police strongly condemned the rumour mongering by a section of people on alleged involvement of organ lifter in the tragic murder of Purna Biswas and said it was totally false and baseless.
DGP Akhil Kumar Shukla appealed to all not to indulge in rumour mongering and to not circulate fake news and images with a view to spreading panic in the society.
The DGP also warned that legal action will be taken against persons found indulging in such acts.
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