"We are trying to identify the victim and have circulated her picture to all the police stations"
An Indian woman was lynched by a mob in Madhya Pradesh near to the Morwa police station, on suspicions of her being a child kidnapper.
The woman, who is unidentified, is thought to be aged between 25 and 30 and was seen roaming around the area at 9:30 pm on 19th July 2018. Reports also described the woman as “mentally unstable”.
The woman was targeted after rumours circulated through WhatsApp messages claiming child kidnappers were active in the area and that she was part of it.
The villagers of the Bhosh district suspected the homeless woman and chased her on the evening of 22nd July 2018. When she was caught, they beat her to death with rods and sticks, kicking and punching her repeatedly.
After the brutal killing, villagers dragged and dumped her body in Bargad forest, not too far from where she was lynched.
Morwa Police station was informed of the incident after a tribal man passing spotted the woman’s body in the jungle.
Narendra Raghuvanshi, who was the police officer in charge at the time, told The New Indian Express:
“We rushed a police team to the spot and recovered the body and began investigations which led us to the Bhosh village.
“A case of murder was lodged on Saturday and subsequent probe led us to the villagers who lynched the woman suspecting her to be a child lifter.”
When police recovered the body, it was found covered in multiple injuries.
Between 12 and 14 people connected to the killing have been arrested and are in custody for charges of rioting and murder under the Indian Penal Code. Many of those arrested are men.
One of the men, named Hira Sinh, was alleged to have assaulted the woman with a pickaxe.
Riyaz Iqbal, Superintendent of Police, Singrauli, told The Times of India:
“It’s the rumour that led to her being killed. Based on our primary findings, we think locals suspected that she was a child lifter and started to question her. Then, they beat her to death.”
The Indian woman has not yet been identified by authorities. Riyaz Iqbal told AFP:
“We are trying to identify the victim and have circulated her picture to all the police stations.”
Over the last three months, there have been several cases of mob attacks related to child kidnapping. According to The Indian Express, in light of the recent mob lynching incident, the government are looking to set up laws against it taking place via the social media app:
“The horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be permitted to inundate the law of the land,” Indian Parliament warned.
The multiple incidents have left authorities and Facebook-owned WhatsApp scrambling for solutions after accusations from the Indian government that the app was fuelling deadly rumours across rural parts of the country.
In fact, in another recent case, a 32-year-old man, Rakbar Khan, from Alwar in Rajasthan was lynched by a mob for allegedly smuggling cows.
Notably, WhatsApp has 200 million users in India alone. The messaging giant is reportedly “horrified by these terrible acts of violence”.
With the attacks seemingly on the rise, BBC News states that WhatsApp has now stepped in with a new scheme that will aim to limit the number of times you can forward a message.
Rumours of child lifting have been prominent due to the wake of fake videos and messages circulating across social media.
The police have stepped in to reassure locals that the information within the messages is untrue, however, these incidents have not settled.