The Madhya Pradesh Police said on Tuesday that a mentally ill man was lynched on suspicion of being a child-lifter in Singwar area of the state’s Dindori district on July 28.

Superintendent of Police K Karthikeyan told PTI that the police discovered a body floating in a well on August 1, after which they conducted an inquiry. The investigation revealed that the man, identified as Mukesh Gond, a resident of Anuppur district, had been murdered on suspicion of child-lifting, he said.

Karthikeyan said that four villagers – Jagdish, Chetram, Sanjay and Gangaram – saw Gond wandering while they were drinking on the night of July 28. When they called him out, he hid in a school. The men then dragged him out and interrogated him. However, being mentally ill, he could only tell that he was from Anuppur district, the police said.

Thereafter, the men began thrashing Gond, calling him a child-lifter. More villagers gathered and beat Gond with sticks, Karthikeyan said. The four accused then tied him up and threw him into a well. They also attached a stone to his body to ensure that he would drown, the police officer added.

The police have arrested 10 people in the case so far, including the four main accused.

This is the latest in a string of lynchings across the country on suspicion of child-lifting. On July 21, a mentally ill woman was beaten to death in Madhya Pradesh’s Singrauli district for allegedly being a child-lifter. On June 29, two forest officials were attacked by a mob in the area on the basis of a similar WhatsApp rumour.

A spate of mob lynchings has claimed dozens of 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.