Indian WhatsApp lynchings

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Indian WhatsApp lynchings
TypeMoral panic, mass hysteria, lynchings, mob violence
CauseFake news spread via social media
Death(s)46 deaths
Non-fatal injuries43 people critically injured

The Indian WhatsApp lynchings are a spate of mob-related violence and killings following the spread of rumours, primarily relating to child-abduction and organ harvesting, via the WhatsApp message service. The spate of lynchings commenced in May 2017 with the killing of seven men in Jharkhand, but did not become a national trend until the beginning of the following year. Fake messages customised with locally specific details are circulated along with real videos attached to fake messages or claims.

In almost all of the lynching locations, no child abductions had been recorded in the previous three months.[1] The chief targets of the lynchings have been manual labourers, outsiders and the mentally disabled, but it has included software engineers, academics, businessmen and middle-class families.

The majority of the attacks have occurred in villages deep within interior regions. The composition of the lynch mobs has comprised men, women and children, But an overwhelming number of them been illiterate or poorly educated men either unemployed or working as daily wage labourers.[2] In at least some of the cases prime instigators have used child-abduction fears to stir up the violence and settle old scores. The attacks take place against an unprecedented upsurge in vigilante and mob-related violence across India since 2014[3] and the widespread media coverage of real crimes against children.

The situation is further complicated by the use of WhatsApp to send genuine child-abduction messages that in several incidences have led to the successful recovery of stolen children.[4]

Mob violence, vigilante justice and outbreaks of mass panics have a long history in India, but they have tended to be localised events. What differentiates the Indian WhatsApp lynchings of 2017–2018 is that social media has enabled acts of violence to be filmed and shared across the country in such a way as to build upon and perpetuate an atmosphere of fear and misinformation that instigates further violence in unconnected locations. For example, video of a lynching in Karnataka has been linked to a spate of violent lynchings in Maharashtra.[5]

Responses[edit]

The Indian Government does not track public lynchings and there are no official statistics from the Indian Crime Records Bureau regarding their occurrence across India.[6]

Media coverage over the killings and efforts to debunk fake news have also been concentrated in the English and Hindi language media, with little attention given to local language reporting.[7]

  • 29 June 2018 – Government of Tripura shuts down internet services for a week following a lynching.
  • 3 July 2018 – Indian Government warns WhatsApp to take steps to prevent the spread of fake news via their platform or face legal action
  • 4 July 2018 – WhatsApp offers $50,000 in funding for researchers to develop technological and social ideas that prevent the spread of fake news[8]
  • 10 July 2018 – WhatsApp launches a newspaper advertising campaign warning against fake news and announces changes for Indian users of the platform that labels forwarded messages as such.[9]
  • 17 July 2018 – Supreme Court asks Parliament to implement law against lynching[10]
  • 19 July – WhatsApp announces changes for Indian users that limits forwards to only 5 groups (as compared with 250 previously), removes the "quick forward" button.[11]
  • August 2018 – 150 Government schools in Kannur, Kerala commence fake news education classes.[12]
  • 5 August 2018 – WhatsApp informs Government that it is hiring a local team to deal with the issues on the platform.[13]
  • 21 August 2018 – Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad meets WhatsApp chief executive Chris Daniels to discuss the violence and request the company comply with Indian laws and setup a local corporate entity.

Notable Cases[edit]

2018 Karbi Anglong lynching[edit]

The 2018 Karbi Anglong lynching occurred when two men were visiting the Kangthilangso waterfall to search for ornamental fish stopped their vehicle to ask villagers for directions. A mob of inebriated villagers suspected them to be child abductors and attacked them with machetes, bamboo poles and wood. The two men succumbed to their injuries before they could be taken to hospital. A video was circulated of the two men covered in blood and begging for mercy.

2018 Athimur lynching[edit]

2018 Athimur lynching
LocationAthimur, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu
DateApril 10, 2018; 10 months ago (2018-04-10)
Deaths1
Non-fatal injuries
3
Accused42 people

65 year old Rukmani and her family was travelling from Chennai to visit the family temple when they stopped to ask a elderly lady for directions. Whilst stopping they gave chocolates to local children. The lady told the rest of the village that they must be child traffickers. A mob of 200 gathered, stripped the family and beat them, killing Rukmani, critically injuring the other three and overturning their vehicle. Police were present but unable to stop the violence until an ambulance arrived. Videos taken of the attack were circulated and used to identify perpetrators. Claims that 52 children in the district had been abducted were circulating on WhatsApp prior to the lynching. Police commenced an awareness campaign against fake news in the days following the attack.

List of Attacks and Lynchings[edit]

Date Victims Location State
Deaths
Injuries
Crowd
Arrests
Circumstances
July 28, 2018 Unidentified male (29) Dindori Madhya Pradesh 1 10 A 29-year-old from a neighbouring district was suspected of being a child kidnapper and set upon by a mob wielding iron bars and bamboo rods. They threw the body in a well where it was discovered a week later.[14]
July 26, 2018 Dhan Singh (male), Ram Swaroop Sen (male), Dashrath Ahirwar (male) Hanumanganj, Bhopal Madhya Pradesh 0 3 15 Three drunk men, in town to purchase an auto rickshaw, try to help a boy cross the road and were set upon by a crowd calling them "bachcha chor" (child thief). The three were rescued by police.[15]
July 24, 2018 Four women Dawkimari village, Jalpaiguri West Bengal 0 4 Four non-local women were assaulted by mobs on suspicion of being child-lifers. Two were visiting relatives, one was a clothes hawker and one was visiting the bank. Two of the women were stripped by the mob, all four were taken to hospital by police and are in a stable condition.[16]
July 19, 2018 1 woman (25) Bhosh village, Morwa, Singrauli Madhya Pradesh 1 14 Following the circulation of WhatsApp messages a group of tribal men suspected a homeless, mentally-disabled woman, attacking her with sticks, rods and a pick-axe. Her body was dumped in the jungle, but found shortly afterwards by the police.[17]
July 18, 2018 25 persons Kranti area, Mal Block Bihar 0 29 25 passengers of the Sampoorna Kranti Express were injured after an angry mob pelted stones.[18] Police fired in the air to disperse the crowd and four were injured. At least report alleges the motivation for the attack was rumours of child-snatchers entering the area.[16]
July 16, 2018 Mohammed Azam (28), Salham Eid Al Kubasi, Noor Mohammed, 1 other man Bidar district Karnataka 1 3 2000[19] 32[20] IT worker, Mohammed Azam was visiting a relative with three friends when they saw some children in the village to whom they gave Qatari chocolates. Villages, suspecting them to be child-snatchers turned hostile. The group fled in their car, but residents called ahead to the next village of Murki who blocked the road. The car flipped into a ditch and the men dragged were dragged out of the vehicle[original research?] and beaten with sticks and stones. By the time the police arrived, Azam was dead whilst the others had sustained critical injuries.[21] Eight policemen were injured, two seriously.[22]
July 12, 2018 1 woman Pathinettankudi, Melur Karnataka 0 1 A North Indian woman was seen with biscuits in her hand and suspected of being a kidnapper. She was tied up and beaten until rescued by the police.[23] Locals said they had heard rumours of North Indian woman coming to kidnap children.
July 7, 2018 Khalid (male) Ujire town, Mangaluru Karnataka 0 1 Khalid was drunk and disciplining his 2 year old daughter in an auto when he was accosted by bystanders. Witnessing the crying girl they suspected him of being a child snatcher. A crowd gathered and began to beat him, the police rescued him and confirmed that he was the father of the child.[24]
July 6, 2018 3 men Mahur Assam 0 0 Three priests (ages between 26 and 31), arrived in Mahur in a car. A mob dragged them from the car, whilst other locals, fearing another Karbi Anglong situation sent for the army who arrived minutes later to rescue the men.[25]
July 4, 2018 Unidentified man (17) Daipam, Darrang Assam 0 1 A disoriented and schizophrenic youth entered a strangers' house by mistake triggering suspicion he was a child lifter. Locals thrashed him until he was rescued by the police.[26]
July 1, 2018 2 men Teynampet, Chennai Tamil Nadu 0 2 Two migrant labourers stopped to help the child of their former land-lady pick up currency notes she had dropped. Local, acting on rumours of kidnappers attacked and beat the two before police intervened and took them to the hospital where they survived.[27]
June 29, 2018 Ramnath Bhat (male, 36) Ambikpur Chhattisgarh 0 0 Ramnath, a phd scholar from London was conducting research amongst people in a village when he ruffled the hair of a child. Shortly afterwards he was lured to a location where a mob was gathering. He quickly called the police who arrived and rescued him.[28]
June 26, 2018 Shantibed Marwadi (female, 45), Ashudevi Nath (female), Liladevi Nath (female), Anasi Nath (female) Ahmedabad Gujarat 1 3 30 Four begger woman were travelling an auto when they were intercepted by men on motorcycles and set upon by a mob who overturned the auto and beaten them with sticks on suspicion of being child snatchers. Police intervened, but Shanti died of her injuries. The other three were hospitalised.[29]
June 26, 2018 Dabiben (female, 45) Varachha, Surat Gujarat 0 45 year old Dabiben was passing through the area with her own daughter when she was accused by a mob of being a child-lifter. Police intervened and took her to police station after which her husband arrived to verify her identity.[29]
June 29, 2018 Jahir Khan (male), Gulzar Khan, Khursid Khan Murabari Tripura 1 2 9[30] Three hawkers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where attacked with Jahir Khan beaten to death, and two others left battling for their lives.[31] The three fled to the camp of the Tripura State Rifles, but the mob overran the camp and police forces.[32]
July 1, 2018 Gopal Sahoo (male, 25), Binod Vikari (25) Kamarajar Street, Chennai Tamil Nadu 0 2 50 3 Two migrants from Odisha working on the Chennai Metro saw a small boy drop 10 rupees whilst running to his mother. Picking him up, they returned the money. A bystander asked the mother if she knew the two and when she said no, suspected them to be child-lifters. Calling together a crowd they gave chase, beating the two to unconsciousness in the presence of the police. They were taken to hospital and survived the attack. The prime accused is Balamurugan, P Aravindan, a local painter.[33]
July 1, 2018 Dadarae Shakarao (male, 36), Bharat (male, 45), Bharat Malve (male, 45), Aagnu Srimant Ingole (male, 20), Raju Bhosale (male, 47) Rainpada village, Dhule district Maharashtra 5 3000 26[34] Five tribals of the Nath Gosavi nomadic community where suspected to be child kidnappers after speaking to 6 year old girl and attacked by a mob with steel rods, sticks, stones and bricks. Police arrived but were not permitted to take the victim until they were dead. A police lathicharge was necessary to clear the mob.[35] Police identify over two dozen attackers from more than 40 videos made of the attack. Compensation was announced for the families of the deceased.[36] Reports describe men fleeing the village to avoid arrest.[37][35] It was reported that one of the videos shared prior to the attack was of dead Syrian children.[38]
July 1, 2018 2 men, 2 women, 1 child Malegaon Maharashtra 0 4 Thousands A family of daily wage labourers were accused by a teenager of being child abductors and set upon by surrounding crowd. All five were rescued by police. The crowd attacked police and overturned a police vehicle. The four are critically injured in hospital.[39] Cause believed to be fake videos originating in Karnataka.[5]
June 29, 2018 Trusthi Singh (female), Brijesh Bagri (male) Medholi village Madhya Pradesh 0 2 3[40] Two forest officials were attacked by a mob on the basis of WhatsApp child abduction and organ rumours. The police successfully intervene in time to save their lives.[41] Later reports suggest local coal mafia may have instigated locals against them for their own purpose.[42]
June 28, 2018 2 women, 4 men Laxmibil, Bishalgarh, Sipahijala Tripura 1 3 1000[43] A mob attacked a group of four men and two women accusing them of child lifting. One woman was killed and the others badly injured.[44]
June 28, 2018 Sukanta Chakraborty (33), and his driver Kalchhara Tripura 1 1 9[30] Sukanta Chakraborty was hired by Tripura's Information and Culture department to raise public awareness about fake child-lifting messages. His van was attacked by a mob and he was beaten to death, whilst his driver escaped with injuries.[32]
June 23, 2018 Sanjay Chandrav (36) Mathuri, East Midnapore West Bengal 1 1000 4 Sanjay Chandra, a B.Com graduate was heading to a job interview and had his face covered in the heat. Stopping to speak to a small girl residents got suspicious and within minutes a crowd of 1000 had gathered to lynch him.[1] In spite of him telling the crowd he live in the neighbouring village and new the councillor there they did not believe him. He was admitted to hospital in a critical condition and died shortly afterwards.[45]
June 23, 2018 1 man (25) Gondiya Maharashtra 1 0 A 25 year old man looking for food was beaten to death by locals believing rumours of a local kidney thief.[46]
June 22, 2018 1 man (40s) Mendrakala Chhattisgarh 1 15 9 A 40 year old mentally-challenged man arrived in the village and when questioned by the locals as to why he was there, he could not answer. Having received messages about child lifters, the villagers beat him to death on suspicion of belonging to an abduction gang. The body was found beneath a bridge.[47]
June 13, 2018 1 man Bulbulchandi-Dubapara, Habibpur Bihar 1 3 An unidentified, homeless man was tied to a post beaten to death as suspicion of being a child kidnapper and organ harvester. Police rescued him but he died on the way to the hospital[48] Social media rumours blamed.
June 8, 2018 Bharat Sonavne (male), Shivaji Shinde (male), and 7 other men Chandgaon, Vaijapur taluka Maharashtra 2 7 1500 400 Two men were beaten to death and seven others were injured, one of them critically, after a mob of villagers attacked them with wooden sticks after receiving social media messages about a gang of robbers in the area.[49]
June 8, 2018 Nilotpal Das (male, 29), Abhijit Nath (male, 30) Panijuri, Karbi Anglong Assam 2 250 36 The 2018 Karbi Anglong lynching occurred when two men visiting the Kangthilangso waterfall to search for ornamental fish stopped their vehicle to ask villagers for directions. A mob of inebriated villages suspected them to be child abductors and attacked them with machetes, bamboo poles and wood.[50] The two men succumbed to their injuries before they could be taken to hospital.[51] Disturbing video was circulated of the two men covered in blood and begging for mercy.[52]
June 6, 2018 Pankaj Bora (male), three other men Mandu Bay hamlet Assam 0 4 The four forest rangers were patrolling the Kaziranga National Park for poachers when they were attacked by villagers who were shouting that the guards were child lifters.[53] Other reports that suggested that local sand mafia may have instigated the attack.[54]
June 1, 2018 3 men Kudisampalli, Hosur Tamil Nadu 1 7[55] Three north indian migrants were returning from work. Whilst waiting in Onnalvadi panchayat for some time they were attacked by a group who took them to be child abductors. Two men escaped, whilst one teenager was beaten to unconsciousness. When the police arrived he was bleeding profusely and died before reaching the hospital[56] Police advised migrant workers to confine themselves to their places of work and stay.[55]
May 30, 2018 1 man Badapada, Patnagarh Orissa 0 1 Mentally-challenged youth beaten up by a mob after being mistaken for a child-lifter. He sustained a serious head injury and was rescued by the police.[57]
May 28, 2018 Chandraiah (female, 52), Swamy (male), Narashima (male), 1 other male Chandrayangutta, Hyderabad Telengana 1 3 300[58] 14[58] Chandraiah, a 52-year old transgender woman and three companions were travelling in the area asking for alms when they were suspected of being child kidnappers. Three were beaten and stoned by a mob of locals with a slab of concrete smashed over Chandraiah's head. Police intervened, but the mob burnt their vehicle.[59] The victims were taken to hospital with Chandraiah succumbing to her injuries.[60] Video circulated after the attack leading to arrests. An unusual development in this case was the arrest of two journalists for "abetment" by allegedly sharing fake news.[61]
May 24, 2018 Deviah Naik (40), Degavath Laalu Chengal village, Nizambad Telengana 1 1 Deviah, a tribal local to the area, stopped his truck for a tea break. He and his friend went into a mango orchard to pick fruit and were accosted by locals on suspicion of being a child-abductor.[62] They were tied with ropes and beaten with iron rods and sticks. Deviah died in hospital whilst Laalu was in a critical condition.[63]
May 23, 2018 Bala Krishan (22) Jiyapally, near Bibinagar Telengana 1 6 Auto driver Bala Krishna, a local of a neighbouring village, was visiting his relative in Jiyapally. Locals, having received messages about child kidnappers on WhatsApp suspected him and gathered a mob to attack him with sticks. The attackers left the injured man at the office of the gram panchayat whereupon other locals set upon him. The attack stopped with the arrival of his relative who took him to the hospital in Koremulla, but he died on the way.[61]
May 23, 2018 Kalu Ram (26) Chamarajpet, Bengaluru Karnataka 1 20 Rajasthani migrant Kalu Ram, a tiling worker, was walking through Pension Mohalla when locals attacked him suspecting him to be a child abductor. He was tied up, dragged through the streets and beaten with a cricket bat, wooden logs and other objects.[64] He died in hospital. Perpetrators included women and minors.[65] Videos of Kaluram's lynching went viral on social media and were used to identify suspects.[66]
May 22, 2018 Nimmala Balakrishna Yadadri Bhuvanagiri Telengana 1 Balakrishna came to the village to visit relatives but was accosted by some youths and beaten to death on suspicion of child-snatching.[62]
May 22, 2018 Five unidentified people
May 23, 2018 Gautum Sahoo Old Town, Vishakapatnam Andhra Pradesh 1 A mentally-challenged and homeless man was beaten by a mob and rescued by the police.[67]
May 20, 2018 Unidentified man (25) Vishakapatnam Andhra Pradesh 1 3 A Hindi-speaking man was stripped, tied to a pole and beaten to death by a mob. A grinding stone was used to batter his head.[68] The attack was linked to WhatsApp messages circulating in the area.[68]
May 21, 2018 Two men Visalakshinagar, Vishakapatnam Andhra Pradesh 1 1 20 A mob of 20 beat up two beggars, with one succombing to his injuries.[62]
May 20, 2018 Bewathi Begum (female, 30), Jakir Mani, Nani Vishakapatnam Andhra Pradesh 3 Bewathi Begum from Howrah, West Bengal and two of her associates where thrashed by a mob on suspicion of being child snatchers. In this case Bwathi was found by the police to be a thief, but innocent of child abduction allegations[68]
May 17, 2018 Uttam Kumar Verma (male), Ganesh Kumar Gupta (male), Vikas Verma (25), Gautam Verma (27), elderly woman (80s) Nagadih Jharkhand 4 2000[69] Two brothers working for the Sachh Bharat campaign and a friend were beaten to death by tribals in front of their 80 year old grandmother. Their older brother sustained injuries in the attack. Police failed to rescue them, with witnesses accusing them of standing and watching. WhatsApp rumours were blamed for the attack.[70][71] Angry villagers torched two police vehicles.[72] It was reported that the grandmother was also beaten and died later.[73]
May 11, 2018 Ganesh (30s) Tiruvaller, Chennai Tamil Nadu 1 90 20[74] A mentally-ill man who had been seen roaming the streets for several months was attacked by 90 villagers who accused him of being a child kidnapper. They broke his nose, gouged out an eye, and hung him from a bridge near Pulicat Lake.[75][76] The cause was fake videos and messages circulating via WhatsApp.
May 10, 2018? 1 man Tiruvallur, Chennai Tamil Nadu 0 1 Mob attacks north indian migrant worker for speaking to children and severely beats him. He is taken to the hospital.[76]
April 29, 2018 1 man (30s) Parasuramapatti, Gudiyatham, Vellore Tamil Nadu 1 A 30 year old Hindi-speaking migrant worker is suspected of being a child-abductor and beaten to death.[75] Police commence a public awareness campaign.
April 28, 2018 ? Unidentified man Sankranthi Palle, Chittoor Andhra Pradesh 0 1 A mentally-ill man in tattered clothing was beaten by village youths until police rescued him.[77]
April 22, 2018 3 teenagers Sumangali Tamil Nadu 1 2 Three teenagers are suspected of being child traffickers and attacked by villagers. One boy is stoned to death and the other two injured.
April 14, 2018 1 man (male, 45) Enathur, Kancheepuram Tamil Nadu 1 A 45-year old man with learning disabilities is beaten to death on suspicion of being a child abductor.
April 10, 2018 ? 1 man Obanapalle village, Chittoor Maharasthra 1 A mentally ill man was beaten by villagers over child-lifting suspicions and handed over the police. After being cleared by the police and released he was attacked by a mob the next day and killed.[78] In this particular case the police themselves appear to have believed the rumours and inflamed the situation by putting out posters warning of child abductors.[77]
April 10, 2018 Rukmani (female, 65), Chandrasekaran (male, 34), Mohan Kumar (male, 34), Venkatesan (51), Gajendran Athimur, Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu 1 3 200 42[79] 65 year old Rukmani and her family was travelling from Chennai to visit the family temple when they stopped to ask a elderly lady for directions. Whilst stopping the gave chocolates to local children. The lady told the rest of the village that they must be child traffickers. A mob of 200 gathered, stripped the family and beat them,[80] killing Rukmani, critically injuring the other three and overturning their vehicle. Police were present but unable to stop the violence until an ambulance arrived.[81] Videos taken of the attack were circulated and used to identify perpetrators.[82] Claims that 52 children in the district had been abducted were circulating on WhatsApp prior to the lynching.[79] Police commence awareness campaign against fake news in the days following the attack.
February 22, 2018 Chottu Kannavanam, Kannur Kerala 0 1 4[83] When a photograph of a bus driver's child fell from his pocket, Chottu, a mentally-unstable migrant worker from Orrissa picked it up. Seeing him with the photograph locals accused him of being part of a child trafficking network and severely beat him before the police could intervene. He was taken to the hospital. Video of the attack circulated on social media.[83]
February 3, 2018 Mohammed Faisal Siddique (25) Jaipur Rajasthan 1 50 4 Mohammed Faisal, a migrant worker from Kanpur, was taking a friend's 2 year old daughter to the market to buy her chocolates when some people suspected he had kidnapped the child. He was tied to an electric pole and beaten by a mob of 50 whilst the girl was abandoned. Police rescued him and took him to the hospital where he died 16 days later. A video of the attack circulated widely on social media.[84]
June 27, 2017 Otera Bibi (female, 42) Sekendra village,Murshidabad West Bengal 1 Following the genuine disappearance of a 14-year old child from the village and the circulation of social media rumours, mentally-ill woman Otera Bibi was lynched by a mob accusing her being the child-lifter. Her clothes were stripped, she was tortured, and beaten for three hours. Police arrived but could not intervene until reinforcements arrived.[85]
May 17, 2017 Sheikh Sajju (male, 25), Sheik Siraj (male, 26), Naim (male, 35), Sheikh Halim (28) Rajnagar Jharkhand 4 12 Four men were killed by mobs on rumours of being child-thieves, but the police believe this was a pretext, and the real reason was that they were cattle-traders. 3 people were acquitted, whilst 12 persons were found guilty of killing the victims and received sentences of 4 years rigorous imprisonment and a Rs 2,000 fine each.[69]
May 17, 2017 Two unidentified men Sosomoli village Jharkhand 2 Two men beaten to death on suspicion of being child abductors.[86]
May 17, 2017 Unidentified man Shobhapur village, Kolhan Jharkhand 1 One man beaten to death on suspicion of being a child abductor.[86]
May 12, 2017 2 men Jadugora, East Singhbhum district Jharkhand 2 Two people were beaten to death and as many injured by a mob on suspicion that they were child lifters in Jadugora.[87]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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