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Child-lifting rumours fuel mob hysteria across states

6091
By IANS Updated: Aug 29, 2019 10:16 pm
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New Delhi, Aug. 29 (IANS):  Close on the heels of a mob frenzy over bovine love that saw many a lives lost due to lynching by cow vigilantes, a new trend has emerged across states over the last few months, where mass hysteria is created over rumours of child abduction.

Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar have all reported incidents of varying degrees and numbers, where the hapless victims have ranged from telecom engineers to even policemen in plain clothes, besides of course the nameless-faceless poor man searching for food from among the scraps.

Such incidents were first reported last year from the Telugu states, where various WhatsApp groups triggered these rumours, leading to violence.

Any person lurking in the neighbourhood or vicinity in the dark is attacked by these mob fed on the social media by various groups.

Uttar Pradesh alone reported over 20 such incidents in the past 72 hours.

A man was killed after being thrashed brutally by a mob on August 27 in Sambhal district. The mob claimed that the man was a child lifter. According to reports, two brothers had gone to see a doctor for the treatment of their nephew when a mob caught hold of them and started beating them on suspicion of child lifting. Both were dragged to a field where they were ruthlessly beaten.

On getting the information, the police rushed to the spot and rescued both the brothers, one of whom was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Five persons were arrested for assaulting the duo.

Four more incidents came to light in Shamli, Bulandshahr and Hapur on the same day. Five women were thrashed by a mob while they were selling ropes suspecting them to be child-lifters in Shamli district. They were rescued by the police.

Similarly, in Bulandshahr, a mentally challenged man was beaten up by the mob on the same suspicion of child lifting. In Hapur, a woman had to face the mob’s wrath after being mistaken for a child lifter.

Even the police who tried to intervene were also beaten up and chased away by the angry mob. Additional forces had to be called in to control the situation and the victim has been hospitalized.

In a similar incident on August 27 in Bareilly, a Delhi Police team also almost got lynched by a mob, while they were investigating a case. The police team in plain clothes managed to escape only after a call was made to the Control Room.

Not all incidents might be rumours as two men were attacked in Amritpur Purena village in Bahraich district on Wednesday had actually picked three-year-old Rehmat Ali, but villagers woke up as dogs started barking.

In a bid to contain such incidents and spread of rumours leading to the mob lynching, the Yogi Adityanath government has instructed all district police chiefs to slap National Security Act (NSA) against those who are found inciting mob or spreading rumours on social media.

Though Madhya Pradesh is among the few states that have enacted law against mob lynching, when it comes to child lifting, crimes against women and children and mob lynching, the state has a poor track record.

It was among the worst offending states in the country with at least 15 cases of child lifting being reported in recent times.

Though the amended law aims to prevent growing instances of violence in the name of protecting the cow, mob lynchings have taken place during recent months for reasons other than cow protection.

Incidents of mob attack on people on suspicion and rumours of child lifting continue to haunt Madhya Pradesh. In the latest incident in Betul district in central MP, three ruling Congress leaders were the victims of a vicious mob attack last month.

Over a dozen cases of mob attacks on people on suspicion of child lifting have been reported from all across Madhya Pradesh within a week in June and July.

In recent days, three people were beaten in Neemuch and their motorcycle was set ablaze after accusations that they had stolen a goat. Police have arrested eight persons in this connection. This was one of the incidents that forced Chief Minister Kamal Nath to announce plans to bring an anti-lynching law.

In West Bengal, most of the cases were reported from the tea estate areas. A series of lynchings and mob attacks over child lifting suspicions plauged especially the north Bengal district of Alipurduar. Though in most of the cases the allegations were found to be baseless as no cases of child kidnapping were reported to the police.

In Patna, two Sikh men on August 5, were badly beaten up by a mob on suspicion of being child lifters, before they were rescued by police. Patna city Superintendent of Police Vinay Kumar Tiwary said the two — Rikki Singh and Prince Singh — were visiting the city when a mob caught them following a rumour of child lifters roaming in Gandhi Nagar Gali under Dighha police station.

According to a local police officials, both men were attacked and beaten up by the mob which also tore off their clothes. “But police rescued both of them and admitted them to the government-run PMCH here. Both are out of danger now,” Tiwary said. Police lodged a case and are trying to identify the people involved in the incident and will file an FIR against them, he said.

In August alone, over half-a-dozen incidents of mob violence were reported in the state against suspected child lifters in Bihar.

Last year, at least four persons were lynched in the Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and more than 20 others were injured in mob attacks, triggered by the child lifting rumours over social media. While three persons were beaten to death by mobs in Telangana, one person was killed in neighbouring Andhra. All the incidents were reported during May, 2018.

Videos showing chopping off the legs and hands of children were widely circulated in various WhatsApp groups, triggering fears. Following these rumours, people in some villages had started patrolling with sticks. Police in both Telugu states had appealed to people not to believe the rumours circulated on WhatsApp. They clarified that there is no movement of any gang of child lifters and that no case of kidnapping was reported.

The police also conducted awareness campaigns across villages to inform people that there is no truth in the rumours. Telangana’s Director General of Police M. Mahender Reddy had warned public not to take law into their hands and cause harm to innocents. He had also warned that stern action would be initiated against those spreading false news and forwarding false messages on social media.

The police had requested citizens not to take law into their hands, in case of any suspicion to approach security agencies.

6091
By IANS Updated: Aug 29, 2019 10:16:46 pm