Fake rumours spread on Whatsapp lead to mass violence in India

Satish Bhaykre, 21, who was beaten by a mob due to a fake WhatsApp text, poses inside his house on the outskirts of Nagpur, India, June 23, 2018. Picture taken June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

AHMEDABAD- Indian police urged people Wednesday not to believe false rumors spread on message application WhatsApp after a woman was killed and a dozen hurt in the latest mob attacks that authorities looking powerless.

In incidents in the city of Ahmedabad five assaults were reported and in the western state of Gujarat on Tuesday, where a lone woman was attacked Shantadetvi Nathi and three others.

Police official JA Rathwa told AFP, “Half a dozen people surrounded the women as they were about to board an auto-rickshaw and started questioning them. Soon the crowd swelled and pulled Shantadevi and her companions out of the rickshaw and started thrashing them,”

“People in the crowd rained punches and kicked the four women. Some even hit them with sticks and pulled them by their hair.”

In two separate assaults in Surat, 275 kilometres from Ahmedabad where five women were attacked by local villagers, a 45-year-old woman was assaulted after locals suspected she had kidnapped her toddler, she was rescued by authorities, police confirmed that she was actual mother of the child but Nathi was declared on arrival.

A police officer told journalist, “It was a mostly male crowd which took away her daughter as they suspected her to be a kidnapper,”

“Both of them were brought to the police station where it became clear that she was indeed the child’s mother,” the officer added.

According to media reports twenty-two people have been killed because of the same or similar WhatsApp rumours in about five Indian states last year.

“Guys please be on high alert,” reads one such message quoted by media. “Three kids were kidnapped from my friend’s area this morning. There were 10 guys giving biscuits… Parents pls be on high alert.”

Another video which was actually taken in Pakistan and is a road safety video, circulated widely online as people believed children were being taken by two men in a motorbike.

Nikhil Pahwa, the editor of news and analysis website Medianama told AFP, “We have all kinds of messages circulating on the social media. Misinformation today is a global issue and there is no one way to address it. Multiple things need to be done.”

Photo Credit- Reuters/Stinger

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