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 matter of national attention 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.
|Type||Moral panic, mass hysteria, lynchings, mob violence|
|Cause||Fake news spread via social media, especially WhatsApp|
In almost all of the lynching locations, no child abductions had been recorded in the previous three months.
The majority of the attacks have occurred deep within the interior regions of villages. The lynch mobs included men, women and children. In some cases the mobs were composed largely of illiterate or poorly educated men that were unemployed or working as day labourers as well as being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the attack. In at least some of the cases prime instigators have used child-abduction fears to stir up the violence and settle old scores.
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.
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.
On 4 July 2018 – WhatsApp offered $50,000 in funding for researchers to develop technological and social ideas that prevent the spread of fake news.
On 10 July 2018 – WhatsApp launched a newspaper advertising campaign warning against fake news and announced changes for Indian users of the platform that labels forwarded messages as such.
2020 Palghar mob lynchingEdit
On 16 April 2020, a vigilante group lynched two Hindu Sadhus and their drivers in Gadchinchale Village, Palghar District, Maharashtra, India. The incident was fuelled by WhatsApp rumours, about thieves operating in the area, during the nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The vigilante group of villagers had mistaken the three passengers as thieves and killed them. The policemen who intervened were also attacked, with four policemen and a senior police officer getting injured.
As of 20 April, 101 villagers have been arrested by the Maharashtra police on charges of murder of the three men and an investigation is ongoing. After the incident, rumours were spread to stoke religious tension. On 22 April, Maharashtra Home Minister, Anil Deshmukh posted a complete list of people arrested, and said that none of the people arrested were Muslims. The government said that both the attackers and the victims were of same religion.
2018 Karbi Anglong lynchingEdit
The 2018 Karbi Anglong lynching occurred when two men who 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.
List of attacks and lynchingsEdit
|May 12, 2017||Two 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.|
|May 17, 2017||Unidentified man||Shobhapur village, Kolhan||Jharkhand||1||One man beaten to death on suspicion of being a child abductor.|
|May 17, 2017||Two unidentified men||Sosomoli village||Jharkhand||2||Two men beaten to death on suspicion of being child abductors.|
|April 10, 2018||Rukmani (female, 65), Chandrasekaran (male, 34), Mohan Kumar (male, 34), Venkatesan (51), Gajendran||Athimur, Tiruvannamalai||Tamil Nadu||1||3||42||65 year old Rukmani and her family was travelling from Chennai to visit the family temple when they stopped to ask an 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 commence awareness campaign against fake news in the days following the attack.|
|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. Police commence a public awareness campaign.|
|May 11, 2018||Ganesh (30s)||Tiruvaller, Chennai||Tamil Nadu||1||20||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. The cause was fake videos and messages circulating via WhatsApp.|
|May 17, 2018||Uttam Kumar Verma (male), Ganesh Kumar Gupta (male), Vikas Verma (25), Gautam Verma (27), elderly woman (80s)||Nagadih||Jharkhand||4||Two brothers working for the Swachh 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. Angry villagers torched two police vehicles. It was reported that the grandmother was also beaten and died later.|
|June 8, 2018||Bharat Sonavne (male), Shivaji Shinde (male), and 7 other men||Chandgaon, Vaijapur taluka||Maharashtra||2||7||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.|
|July 1, 2018||2 men, 2 women, 1 child||Malegaon||Maharashtra||0||4||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. Cause believed to be fake videos originating in Karnataka.|
|July 1, 2018||Dadarao Bhosale, Bharat Bhosale, Aappa Ingole, Bharat Malve and Raju Bhosale||Rainpada village, Dhule district||Maharashtra||5||5 people belonging to the nomadic community Nath Panthi Davari Gosavi were lynched to death on the suspicion of being child traffickers. Rumours on social media suggested that child abductors were active in the area.|
|July 16, 2018||Mohammed Azam (28), Salham Eid Al Kubasi, Noor Mohammed, 1 other man||Bidar district||Karnataka||1||3||32||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. Villagers, 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 them 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. Eight policemen were injured, two seriously.|
|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.|
|April 18, 2020||Sushil Giri Maharaj (35), Nilesh Telgane (35), and Chikane Maharaj Kalpavrikshgiri (70)||Palghar||Maharashtra||3||110||See 2020 Palghar mob lynching. Three men who were driving to a funeral during coronavirus lockdown were lynched by the vigilante group on the suspicion of being thieves after rumours were floated in the area.|
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