A mentally ill beggar and a mentally ill woman were among five people killed and in eight attacks over rumours of child lifting in Bihar in August, according to a FactChecker database that records such attacks. This is even as police say that no child was reported missing in areas where the attacks occurred.

State capital Patna saw five attacks which led to three deaths, according to media reports. Prior to this, Bihar recorded only one such incident – in 2012 – according to the database compiled from English-language media.

Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have also reported several attacks over similar rumours in July and August, according to various media reports which can be accessed here, here, here and here.

Nationwide, since 2012, 44 people have been killed and at least 131 injured in 87 attacks linked to child-lifting rumours, according to the FactChecker.in database. Odisha at 15 had the most attacks, followed by Tamil Nadu with 13 attacks and Bihar with 9 attacks. Most attacks – 69 of them – were reported in 2018. Ninety-four percent those in the May-July period.

On August 3, the body of a mentally unwell beggar was found outside Kalichak village in Patna district’s Dhanarua. The victim was said to be living in the village for several years and was lynched on rumours of abducting a child.

The same day, in Patna’s Rupaspur area, residents of Sabri Nagar Musahari attacked three people with bamboo sticks, rocks and heavy tree logs alleging that they were child-lifters. One person was killed while two others were injured. Four policemen were also injured while rescuing the victims.

On August 10, a man was attacked on suspicions that he was a child-lifter in Mohammedpur village. Police shifted the victim to a hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries. The police arrested 22 people in connection with the case.

On August 19, a man named Rohit Kumar was beaten to death at Choudhary Bihga village in Aurangabad district over child lifting rumours.

On August 22, a mob lynched a mentally ill woman after branding her a child abductor at Shahpur Toli in Bihar’s Vaishali district. Police said the woman, who is in her 20s, was attacked after she had entered a house on a Thursday morning. “A crowd of around 50 to 70 people assembled at the spot and started raining blows and punches on her,” police said.

No child missing

“Not one child was reported missing,” Garima Malik, Senior Superintendent of Police, Patna, told FactChecker, adding that the frequency of these attacks has now reduced.

Police has been reacting with great alacrity, first information reports have been registered and arrests have been made – more than 50 people have been arrested and are in judicial custody, she added.

Local police and senior officers have been conducting meetings with communities to sensitise them, Malik said.

“Special drives have been launched to sensitise people against such rumours,” State Director General of Police Gupteshwar Pandey told the media on August 10, adding that police have begun special patrolling in rumour-prone areas.

At least 12 such attacks were reported in Patna over 15 days to August 5, Malik had said earlier.

In the past, several attacks were against people perceived to be outsiders to the place of the incident. But, this was not the case in Patna, Malik told FactChecker.in. People from nearby localities have also been attacked, sometimes even when parents were seen walking with their children, she added. Rumours, especially on social media, led to most of these attacks, Malik said.

This article first appeared on FactChecker, a publication of the journalism non-profit IndiaSpend.