Rumours Lead to Lynching in Bengaluru, Hyderabad

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North Indian laborers in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and southern states are being lynched suspecting them to be child lifters.

North Indians, especially workers from Rajasthan and Bihar, are living in the grip of fear across Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh as local people have been lynching them mistaking them to be child lifters on the prowl to `smash skulls and devour the brains.’ The `virus’ of a child lifting gang spread across the three southern states through WhatsApp videos that were obviously fake.

On Wednesday, the `virus’ reached the IT city of Bengaluru where 26 year old Kaluram of Rajasthan was lynched by an angry mob which mistook him to be a child-lifter.

Fourteen people, including two minors and four women, were arrested by Chamarajpet police in connection the lynching of Kaluram.

The police have admitted that a fake video showing child lifters from neighbouring states has triggered panic across many districts in Karnataka.

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A police officer who visited the lynching spot said that most of the people who assaulted Kaluram didn’t know why they were doing it. “They just joined in,” he said. The police are yet to establish who spread the word that Kaluram could be a child-lifter.

Later, two fresh incidents of people assaulting suspected childlifters were reported in Kolar district. This takes the number of mob attacks to three in Kolar.

While the first incident was reported from Susaipalya on Sunday, two similar incidents were reported in Nookalabande in Mulbagal police limits and Vijinapura in Mulbagal Rural on Wednesday.

The police which rushed to Vijinapura on getting information that a child-lifter had been caught by the public found that the man was mentally unstable.

At least four people have been lynched by irate mobs in the past one week in the southern states on suspicion of being “child-lifters and kidnappers” after fake videos and wild rumours were floated on social media claiming interstate gangs were on the prowl for kids.

Social media rumours are suspected to have spread from in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. WhatsApp messages and videos speak about child-lifting gangs that “smash skulls to devour brains” of young kids. The three cases of lynching were reported from Vikarabad, Nizamabad and Yadadri districts.

Following the rumours, strangers and people from the north are becoming sitting ducks. At least 10 people were tied to trees and electricity poles and severely thrashed in the past 10 days and some of the victims are critical.

Even cities like Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam are not immune to the rumours. On Wednesday night, a mentally ill beggar was thrashed by a local councillor in Hyderabad and rumours kept many in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam awake through the night.

In Tamil Nadu on May 8, a group of people at Athimur in Tiruvannamalai district, around 170km southwest of Chennai, beat a 65-year-old woman to death on the assumption that she was trying to steal a child.

Two days later, a mob beat to death a mentally ill man and hung the body from a bridge near Pulicat Lake, about 50km north of Chennai. Rumours had spread that groups of people from “northern states” had been looking to steal children from the area.

Police admit that language problem is a big issue. As soon as the mob finds out that a suspect cannot answer properly in the local language, he or she is suspected to be a child lifter. What remains is a horrible `death penalty.’