Thursday, September 05, 2019

Mob attacks on rumoured child lifters are back with a vengeance. What will it take to end them?

Mob Justice

In July and August, frenzied mobs have killed three people and thrashed dozens more after viral Whatsapp rumours about child abductors.

A file photo of protests in Ahmedabad against mob lynching in 2018 | Amit Dave/Reuters

Aarefa Johari

Mob violence over child-lifting rumours is back with a vengeance. In 2018, angry mobs killed at least 24 people between January and July in a spate of incidents across the country, on the suspicion that they were child abductors. The suspicions were fuelled by rumours that had spread like wildfire on WhatsApp and other social media platforms, about gangs of kidnappers who were out to snatch children and harvest their organs.

Reports about these rumours and the mob attacks they triggered died out in the latter half of 2018, even though mob lynchings by cow protection vigilantes continued to make headlines. But in the past two months, social media rumour-mongering about alleged child lifters have resurfaced in several states, fuelling mobs that have killed at least three people so far and injured dozens more.

Like last year, state governments and police forces are once again struggling to find new methods to counter rumours about child lifting bogeymen and prevent mob violence. The Uttar Pradesh government, for instance, is making arrests under the National Security Act to deter mob assaulters from taking law and order into their own hands.

But in a country where mob justice is rapidly gaining societal acceptance, will any of these efforts prove to be effective?

Mohammed Naeem was one of the seven people lynched by villagers in Jharkhand in May, 2018, over rumours of child kidnappings. Credit: Manoj Kumar/HT Photo


In July 2018, Union minister Jayant Sinha garlanded eight men convicted of lynching a meat trader in Jharkhand when they were out on bail.

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