GUWAHATI/AURANGABAD: In two more instances of people losing their lives due to fake news on social media, four people were lynched – two each in Assam‘s Karbi Anglong and Maharashtra‘s Aurangabad – in the last 24 hours following rumours that they were child lifters or thieves. TOI had reported at least six similar lynchings in south India in May.
In perhaps the most numbing case of lynching so far, a sound engineer from Mumbai, Nilotpal Das (29) and his businessman friend Abhijeet Nath (30) were beaten to death on Friday evening in Karbi Anglong district by a mob which mistook the duo for child-lifters. One of the attackers even recorded the act of barbarism and circulated it online.
Five people have been arrested so far, police said on Saturday. Sources said the two victims were on their way to Kangthilangso, a picnic spot, to capture sounds of nature and collect some ornamental fish. When they stopped their car to ask for directions, some villagers, suspecting them of being child-lifters, informed others. This fuelled rumours that the duo will kidnap children, sources said.
When the two were on their way back, a mob stopped their vehicle, dragged them out and lynched them around 7.30pm. When a friend of Nilotpal from Guwahati called at 8pm, a stranger picked up the phone and told him that Nilotpal has been killed.
“For the past few days, a Facebook post was being circulated that some child lifters have come to Assam. What happened in Karbi Anglong was a tragic fallout of people falling for such rumours,” said Assam DGP Kuladhar Saikia.
The clip of the lynching, which was circulated widely on social media, showed Nilotpal pleading before the murderers that he was an Assamese from Guwahati. With folded hands, Niloptal was heard pleading, “Don’t kill me…please don’t beat me. I am an Assamese. Believe me, I am speaking the truth. My father’s name is Gopal Chandra Das and mother’s name is Radhika Das…please let me go.”
CM Sarbananda Sonowal has asked additional DGP (Law and Order) Mukesh Agarwala to conduct an inquiry to nab the culprits.
According to some witnesses, the victim’s pleas to stop the mob of youths from attacking the duo fell on deaf ears. “A member of a village defence party first informed the Dokmoka Police Station which is a 30-minute drive from the site where the lynching was on,” said a local. “When police arrived on the spot, one of the youths appeared to be dead and the other one was gasping for life. They were immediately taken to hospital where they were declared dead on arrival,” said a policeman.
In Aurangabad’s Chandgaon village, two tribals were lynched and six others injured when a mob, suspecting them of being robbers, attacked them on Friday. Eight suspects have been arrested and 400 villagers booked so far.
The victims were attacked when they were crossing the Yeola-Manmad railway tracks near Chandgaon and going towards the neighbouring forest area to hunt around 6.30am.
Two of them were killed on the spot and the others were admitted to the Government Medical College and Hospital, where the condition of two of them is stated to be critical, police said on Saturday.
Vaijapur deputy superintendent of police Sunil Lanjewar told TOI: “The policemen tried to intervene but the mob had grown too violent. They even pulled some of the men out of the police vehicle and again started thrashing them.”
The officer said for the past few days, Aurangabad rural area has been abuzz with rumours on social media about thieves and robbers being active in the area. Several villagers were keeping a vigil, particularly at night and early mornings.