Over the past couple of years, abduction rumours have been rampant in India, with mobs taking the law into their own hands and thrashing people over unfounded suspicions of child-lifting. Mentally-challenged people, unable to defend themselves have become the most common victims of the violence.
The majority of the mob attacks have been reported from rural parts of the country. Over the past three months, more than 15 people have been lynched across India. Cases of lynchings have been reported from Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, among other places.
Alt News has debunked several fake videos of mob attacks that have proliferated on social media, spreading panic. In addition, there is a disturbing trend of staged videos fanning the kidnapping rumours.
In the era of social media, where “likes” and “views” dictate the nature of content, YouTube is host to several staged videos that claim to reveal the modus operandi of kidnappers on a prowl. In stereotypical fashion, many video depict the kidnappers as strangers or differently-abled people begging for alms.
Here are five of the most viral staged videos on YouTube that have added fuel to kidnapping rumours.
1. Two men dressed as sadhus
Video posted by: L K Films
Number of views: 27 million
The dramatic video shows two men dressed as sadhus surveying a village. One of the men acts as a deaf and mute person. The other man is shown instructing this person. The duo go from door-to-door begging for alms when the differently-abled man finds an unaccompanied boy walking the streets.
He offers the boy a snack then, seizes an opportunity to sedate the child and hides him under a shed. A car, driven by a third man, drives up to the spot. The first two men pack the boy into a sack and take him away.
When this article was published, the video, posted on July 31, had amassed over 27 million views on YouTube. “बाच्चा चोराकर गाडी मै लेकर भाग रहै है ये लोग गाँव मै आकर (These people fled in a car after kidnapping a child from a village)”, reads the title of the video. This video is categorised as “comedy”.
On August 27, a 48-year-old pregnant and deaf-mute woman was reportedlyassaulted by a mob in Delhi over suspicions of child-lifting.
2. Woman begging for alms
Video posted by: Vijeta Films
Number of views: 16 million
In an 11-minute long video, a woman is seen going door-to-door in a village begging for alms. The woman is looking for children in the houses she visits. She finds two children playing outside one house. Later, the woman joins the children and offers food to them. As soon as the elder brother leaves sight of the younger child, the woman grabs the child in her arms and runs away.
The younger boy returns to find that the woman and his sibling are both missing and immediately informs his family. The woman is caught by residents. The video ends with visuals of the family beating the woman.
The title of this video posted by Vijeta Films, a verified YouTube channel with over 6 lakh subscribers, reads, “#किडनी चोर औरत बच्चा लेकर भाग रही थी अचानक पकड़ी गई || vijeta films (Kidney thief, child-kidnapper woman was running away with a child and was caught || vijeta films)”. The video, published on August 8, has garnered more than 16 million views so far.
3. Video of a couple begging for alms
Video posted by: Anmol Bhojpuriya
Number of views: 15 million
A couple is shown roaming about in a forest where they change their clothes and dress up as religious mendicants. After failing to find a child alone in a house, the couple spot one sleeping on a cot. The woman picks the child and puts him into a sack held by the man. They flee into the forest. Villagers subsequently catch the two, beat them up and rescue the boy.
#किडनीचोर गेंग कि खौफनाक तसबिरें ऐसे देते है बारदात को अंजाम,सबक सिखाना जरूरी है (Dangerous photos of gangs that sell kidneys. This is how they perform their task. It is important that they are taught a lesson)”, says the title of the videoposted on August 10.
With more than 15 million views on YouTube, the video builds a misleading perception about people dressed in religious garb. Last month, a sadhu and two of his disciples were thrashed by a mob in Madhya Pradesh over false child-kidnapping rumours.
4. Sadhu begging for alms
Video posted by: Zee Jawan
Number of views: 12 million
This video also shows a man dressed as a sadhu begging for alms in a village. He finds a house where a couple with a child is sleeping in a room. He manages to enter the house, pulls out a knife and takes the child away. While trying to escape, the sadhu is caught by locals who subsequently thrash him.
The video shows the mob beating the sadhu to death. The actors ask viewers to keep a lookout for any sadhu or beggar who might be a kidnapper.
Posted on August 5, the video by a channel named Zee Jawan with more than 2 lakh subscribers, has amassed over 12 million views so far. “भीख मांगने वाले ही किडनी चोर है ईस गाँव में पकडा गया !! Bhajpuri comedy video zee jawaan!!” reads the title of the video.
5. Kidnapping racket
Vidoe posted by: Jio Bihar
Number of views: 13 million
In this video, the leader of a kidnapping demands that the members find more children so that that he can sell their kidneys. The two male gang members roam around the village, grab children found alone and give them to the gang leader.
While attempting to escape, the men are caught. Meanwhile, a couple is shown slicing the abdomen of a child and blood oozes out of its body. The gang members are taken hostage by the locals who are later guided to the leader. When the locals see the couple slicing the body, they thrash the gang members. Eventually, the mob kills the gang.
This video by a YouTube channel called Jio Bihar has garnered more than 13 million views. A screengrab of the video is also viral on WhatsApp with the kidnapping rumours.
A communal, Pakistani angle
In a five-minute-long staged video, a man who is portrayed as a kidnapper contacts his boss Suleman in Pakistan and informs him about child-lifting rumours circulating in India. The boss asks him to bring back three children by any means necessary.
The man starts looking for children, as he pretends that he is a grinding-stone sharpener. He finds a child playing alone, places him in a sack and tries to run away when a group of people catch the man.
Many other videos
Alt News found at least 11 more videos with over a million views, the highest being over 11 million. YouTube channel Arvind Singh Gopalganj posted a staged video titled, “किडनी निकालने वाले भिखारी को गांव वालो ने मार दिया (The beggar who extracts kidney was beaten up by villagers).” The video, with more than 11 million views so far, depicts a man dressed as a beggar who kidnaps a child and tries to extract his kidney. Out of these 11 videos, five portray sadhus as kidnappers prowling rural areas.
Other YouTube channels which have uploaded theatrical kidnapping videos drawing over a million views are KSR Rajasthani (4 million), NRS Rajasthani Music (4 miillion, 8 million), JMMB Films (2 million), L K Films (5 million), Shankar Patel (2 million), MR Bhojpuriya (9 million), Menka Films (5 million), Bhojpuri Heros (2 million), and Kripa Shankar111 (7 million).
Four of these ten channels are verified YouTube accounts. Out of these four, three have more than 2 million subscribers.
Using the incognito mode on Google Chrome, Alt News searched for videos on YouTube with the keyword, “बच्चा चोर (Kidnapper)”. We observed that if one of the staged videos in the top three search results is selected, at least 20 more such videos turn up in the suggested videos list.
While the video in the screenshot below informs people about a mob mistaking beggars and sadhus for childlifters, the clips listed in the suggestions are staged videos that portray the same groups as kidnappers.
Many of the staged videos on YouTube portray beggars, sadhus, mendicants, labourers and differently-abled persons as the kidnappers. Not only do these videos fan the rumours, they dehumanise people from underprivileged backgrounds who beg for a living.
The majority of the staged videos presented in this article are in Bhojpuri, a language commonly spoken in the Uttar Pradesh-Bihar region. All the videos depict and rationalise extrajudicial mob justice. It is noteworthy that in the past three months, at least seven people have been lynched in Bihar over kidnapping rumours.
This article was first published by Alt News.