"[He] wanted to take his sons away without his wife's knowledge."
An Indian man from the K R Pet region of Karnataka was beaten up by a mob of angry villagers when he was mistakenly thought to be a child-lifter.
The incident occurred on 18th July 2018. The estranged father of two schoolchildren, Mahesh Babu had decided that he wanted to take his sons away without his wife knowing.
A native of Andhra Pradesh, the man was recently separated from his wife. As a result, he chose to seek out his sons to take them away from his mother.
On the morning of the incident, Mahesh was joined by some of his friends. They decided to block in the school bus, within which his children were heading to school.
After blocking the bus in and leaving it with nowhere to go, he attempted to forcibly take his 9-year-old son from the bus.
This action created widespread panic among the children on the bus which attracted attention from local villagers.
The locals who gathered around the scene with worry then began to attack Mahesh. They also attacked his friends who had helped to block the bus in.
The group of men were assaulted by the villagers who beat them up believing them to be child abductors. They grabbed the men and stopped Mahesh from taking his son.
As rumours began to spread that they were child-lifters, the group of men were taken to the police.
According to the Indian Express, the police explained the incident. They said:
“The attempt to forcibly take the children away after stopping the school bus midway created fear and panic resulting in local villagers intervening in the situation and raining blows on the father of the children and his friends.”
The K R Pet circle Inspector, Venkatesh described what happened after the men were taken to the police station. He said:
“We took the men to the police station and conducted an inquiry and found that the man was the father of the child.
“He was separated from his wife Asha Babu for the last three months and wanted to take his sons away without his wife’s knowledge.”
He added that the child had been returned to his mother, whilst the father was given a warning. Venkatesh said:
“We called the wife as well and handed the child to her. The man and his friends were sent off with a warning after they apologised for their actions.”
Whilst Mahesh and his accomplices were beaten up by the villagers, they could have met a much worse fate.
This story of attempted abduction and rumours follows the death of Mohammad Azam, a 27-year-old software engineer.
After being suspected of being part of a child kidnapping ring due to WhatsApp rumours, a 2,000-strong mob attacked the engineer on the night of 13th July 2018.
The incident took place on his return from Hyderabad city to Karnataka in the Bidar district when Azam stopped to offer chocolates to some of the local children.
Based on reports from the Independent, VN Patil, the Bidar deputy police chief said:
“One of them had bought chocolates from Qatar and tried to offer it to a group of children as a token of affection.”
The huge mob pelted him with sticks and stones as he drove through the village.
Azam’s car was flipped when it hit a roadblock that had been erected to stop them from escaping. They were then pulled from the car and beaten.
According to the New Delhi Television, the deceased engineer’s brother said:
“My brother gave chocolates to children. We don’t know what their parents thought but several villagers gathered and beat them. How can they think they were kidnappers?”
Since the incident, Southern Indian police have arrested 25 people in connection with the killing.