From Assam To Tamil Nadu: The Fake WhatsApp Messages Of Child Kidnappers You Forwarded Have Taken Many Lives
Fake news and mob lynching – two evils that have become part of our society now. The fake news and twisted sense of justice among people are driving our country to utter lawlessness.
Recently, two Assamese youth were beaten to death by local villagers for being mistaken as child abductors in a remote area of Karbi Anglong district of Assam. This incident reportedly took place on Friday night after there were rumors about ‘XopaDhora’ (child kidnapper) on social media.
The victims, Nilotpal Das, was a sound engineer working in Goa and Mumbai, and Abhijeet Nath, ran his own business, went to Kangthilangso, a famous waterfall when the locals allegedly attacked them.
It is just not Assam, the fake videos of child kidnappers have been travelling around on WhatsApp and have led to the death of many others across India. The menace started from Jharkhand and then happened in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The messages have gory images and explicit visuals of young men and women and bodies of children along with the text that a notorious gang was kidnapping children. Other WhatsApp message says that members of the gang are kidnapping children in the middle of the night to harvest their organs.
Ignorance & Impulse
On 18 May 2017, Jharkhand was struck by two separate lynchings in less than 24 hours. The acts of violence killed seven people and injured at least six others. The lynchings stemmed from a spate of WhatsApp rumours over alleged “child abductors” who had infiltrated the area. Hundreds of tribals in Jharkhand’s southern districts lynched and injured several suspected strangers over WhatsApp rumours. Apparently fearing abduction of their own children, tribals along the borders of Seraikela-Kharsawan, East Singhbhum, and West Singhbhum districts had picked up traditional weapons and attacked strangers or any suspected outsiders.
Similarly, last year on June 29, 42-year-old Otera Bibi, who was a mental patient and under psychiatric treatment for over a year, was lynched on suspicions of being a child trafficker in Sekendra village in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district.
This year, on May 22, a supermarket clerk was lynched to death by a mob in Visakhapatnam after people found him to be moving around “suspiciously”. He was not a Telugu speaker. Acting swiftly, the police arrested three people for killing the unidentified man. In another incident which was reported in Kancharapalem, a lady identified as Bewathi Begum was thrashed after people suspected her of being a child lifter. They found Rs 1.75 lakh cash in her bag that raised suspicion.
A 65-year-old woman died after she and her family members were attacked by a mob in Tiruvannamalai district, Tamil Nadu. The mob had mistaken the family to be a group of child traffickers.
On May 24, in the heart of the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore, an angry mob lynched a 26-year-old youth on suspicion of being a child smuggler. Seven people were arrested in relation to the crime. Bengaluru City Police in a Facebook post also warned people against believing in rumours. The victim was a daily wage labourer from Rajasthan.
On May 26, this fake WhatsApp forward claimed another victim as a group of transgenders were thrashed in Hyderabad’s Old City on suspicion of being kidnappers, and one of them succumbed to death.
The Logical Indian Take
We need stringent punishments against those who resort to such acts of violence. To uphold the safety of citizens, law and order need to be established. In the meanwhile, people from all strata of life need to be educated and made aware of the evils of mob lynching. This isn’t an isolated incident, but innocents are continually thrashed by goons who believe they are above the law.
Creating or sharing fake news is never justified. We have a responsibility to verify everything that we post on the internet. To ensure that our national debate is healthy and well-informed, each and every one of us has a responsibility of treating what we read with a pinch of salt, a spoonful of doubt, and a flood of research.