The police in Madhya Pradesh’s Singrauli district’s Morwa region on Monday arrested 12 people for beating a woman to death late on Saturday on the suspicion of child theft. Morwa Sub-Divisional Officer of Police KS Dwivedi told PTI that the accused were produced before a local court, which sent them to jail.
“It is basically a rumour that led to the killing,” District Superintendent of Police Riyaz Iqbal told The Times of India. “Primary findings suggest locals suspected her to be a child lifter and questioned her. They then beat her to death.”
The woman suffered from a mental illness, according to India Today. Her body was recovered on Sunday afternoon from a forest close to the spot of the incident. On June 29, two forest officials were attacked by a mob in the area on the basis of a similar WhatsApp rumour. The police had intervened in time to save their lives.
A spate of mob lynchings has claimed 22 lives in Maharashtra, Tripura, Assam, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Karnataka since March. In nearly all cases, the mobs seem to have been incited by widely shared WhatsApp videos and messages asking people to beware of child kidnappers. The victims have ranged from innocent people asking for directions; transgendered people; the poor; and the mentally disturbed. The police have since started outreach programmes to quell fake news.