The Maharashtra Police on Monday detained 23 people in connection with the lynching of five people in the state’s Dhule district. All 23 belong to Rainpada village and are between 20 and 30 years, The Indian Express reported.

A group of villagers on Sunday killed five people suspecting them to be part of a gang of “child lifters”. Rumours about the presenceof a gang of kidnappers had spread in the area in the previous few days, police said. Villagers allegedly attacked them when one of them tried to speak to a girl child.

“The accused hail from a tribal village where WhatsApp posts pertaining to child kidnappers had gone viral,” Dhule Superintendent of Police M Ramkumar said. “Based on the posts, the mob suspected them to be child lifters and thrashed them to death.”

The police officials said the victims were nomads who had come to seek alms at the weekly bazaar. The police have filed a case against 35 people, of whom 12 have been named. They have all been booked under IPC Section 302 (murder) and other sections pertaining to rioting. “We have registered a case. Of the 12 named, most of them will be formally arrested by night,” Ramkumar further said.

The deceased were identified as Bharat Shankar Bhosale, Dadarao Shankar Bhosale, Raju Bhosale and Bharat Malwe, all from Khave village in Solapur district, and Anagu Ingole from Manewadi village in the district, according to The Hindu.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the state government will provide a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the victims, according to ANI. “The incident is unfortunate,” he said. “We have already begun investigation in the matter.”

Director General of Police Dattatray Padsalgikar urged people to not circulate or believe rumours on kidnappers. Instead, inform the police if you have any doubts and the department will take necessary action, he told India Today.

Series of lynchings

Over the past month, several incidents of mob violence following rumours on social media have been reported across the country, leading to assaults and murders. On June 2, a man was lynched in Tamil Nadu’s Krishnagiri district. On June 8, two men were pulled out of their car and lynched by a mob in Assam. On June 14, a similar murder was reported in West Bengal’s Malda district.

On June 22, a similar rumour led to a lynching in Chhattisgarh’s Sarguja district. On June 26, a mob beat to death a 40-year-old woman in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad on the suspicion that she was a kidnapper. Three people, including a man hired by the Tripura government to spread awareness against rumours of child-lifting, were killed in the state at the end of June.