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In yet another incident of mob violence, 5 men belonging to OBC community were beaten to death in Maharashtra’s Dhule district. They were accused of being child kidnappers, a reason that is often used as a pretext for mob violence across India along with cow slaughter. The police who tried to intervene were also injured in the attack that took place on Sunday (July 1, 2018).

The police said that there were rumours afloat on social media and messaging apps like WhatsApp that a gang of child kidnappers and dacoits were in the area. The origin of these messages has not been traced. The five victims were alighting a bus in Rainpada when they were attacked.

Dhule Superindendent of Police (SP) M. Ramkumar told TWJ over phone that the victims were all nomads and belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) community. The post mortem report has cited head injury as the cause of death and their families have taken the bodies to Solapur, the tribal village to which they belong. The police officers who were injured in the attack have been discharged from the hospital, he said.

SP Ramkumar said that the police have arrested 23 localites so far in the case. No complaints of child kidnapping have been made in the area so far, he added.

This is not the first time that child trafficking and kidnapping are being used as a pretext for mob violence in India. The pattern of messages spreading over social media and messaging apps culminating in violence against minorities has been detected in several incidents in the past.

On the very same day of the Dhule violence, Chennai witnessed mob violence citing child kidnapping as the reason for ‘suspicion.’ Two migrant labourers who were working on a contract with Chennai metro were attacked and were admitted in a hospital on Sunday. The mob started beating them up accusing them of kidnapping when they were seen talking to a child.

Tripura also witnessed lynchings when three people were beaten to death in June.

On June 28, 2018 a mob lynched Sukanta Chakraborty in Tripura, accusing him of being a ‘child lifter.’ Chakraborty was a member of a team of the state Information and Culture Affairs department that was campaigning against rumour-mongering.

On June 8, 2018 two people from Guwahati were beaten to death in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district. The pretext in the incident was also that of ‘child abduction.’ The victims Niloptal Das and Abhijeet Nath were artistes based in Goa and were back home for the Bohag Bihu festival. They had stopped their vehicle in Panjuri Kachari to ask for directions to Kangthilangso waterfalls when they were attacked.

WhatsApp rumours that have been cited as the reason for these lynchings are circulated all over the country. These messages spread panic among residents and parents by stating that child kidnappers are on the loose. Some messages say that children are being abducted for organ transplant. The police have maintained that these rumours are baseless.

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