The Maharashtra Police on Sunday rescued five members of a family who were allegedly attacked by a mob on the suspicion of being child abductors in Nashik district, The Hindu reported.

Earlier on Sunday, a group of villagers had killed five people suspecting them to be part of a gang of “child lifters” in neighbouring Dhule district. Police detained 23 people in connection with the lynching on Monday.

According to the police, “a mob of thousands” attacked Gajanan Sahebrao Gire, his wife Sindhubai, their two-year-old child, Sindhubai’s sister Anusaya and another relative Yogesh in the Azad Nagar locality of Malegaon late on Sunday night suspecting them to be a gang of child kidnappers, about whom rumours had been circulating on social media. The victims are from Jintur in Parbhani district and were begging for money along Malegaon’s Ali Akbar Road to pay for their fare back home.

“They came to Malegaon in the hope of earning some money by begging and were staying near Manmad Square,” Additional Superintendent of Police Harsh Poddar told Hindustan Times.

Poddar said a mob started beating up the couple and their relatives. “However, a tragedy was averted after some citizens informed the police about the incident, following which a police team rushed to the spot and pacified the people,” he added.

He said the victims were taken to the police station and their identities confirmed with the Jintur police. They left for Jintur on Monday morning.

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.