A group of villagers allegedly killed five people in Maharashtra’s Dhule district on Sunday, suspecting them to be part of a gang of “child lifters”, PTI reported, quoting police. There were rumours of a gang of kidnappers in the area the last few days, police said.
The five people were from Solapur, according to Lokmat. Two policemen were also reportedly injured when they tried to intervene. Police have detained 15 people in connection with the incident.
The five persons were seen getting down from a state transport bus in the Rainpada hamlet, police said. Villagers allegedly attacked them when one of them apparently tried to speak to a girl.
“The accused hail from a tribal village where WhatsApp posts pertaining to child kidnappers had gone viral,” Dhule Superintendent of Police M Ramkumar told The Indian Express. “Based on the posts, the mob suspected them to be child lifters and thrashed them to death.”
Maharashtra Minister of State for Home Deepak Kesarkar has appealed to people not to believe in rumours on social media.
In Chennai, two migrant labourers were beaten by a mob on similar suspicion on Sunday, PTI reported. They were rescued and taken to a hospital, police said. The mob allegedly started beating them up when they were talking to a child, who happened to be the son of the owner of a house the labourers lived in earlier, police said.
Such lynchings and mob attacks after rumours about gangs of child abductors have been reported from various parts of the country in the past month. On June 8, a mob in central Assam lynched two young men from Guwahati after suspecting that they were child abductors. Three people, including a man hired by the Tripura government to spread awareness against rumours of “child lifting”, were killed in the state earlier this week. The state government has imposed a 24-hour ban on mobile internet and SMS services.