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2 months, 11 states, 20 lynching cases, 23 deaths: Is social media turning anti-social at the hands of rumour mongers?

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On July 1, five people were killed by a mob of over 3,500 people in Maharashtra’s Dhule suspecting them of being child lifters. The reason behind the lynching was the rumors about the presence of a gang who kidnap children and sell kidneys. According to the Maharashtra Police, the villagers saw the men dressed strangely and offering biscuits to kids. In the videos that went viral, the victims were seen pounced upon, stoned and thrashed with sticks and footwear. The victims were identified as Bharat Shankar Bhosale, Dadarao Shankar Bhosale, Raju Bhosale and Bharat Malwe and Anagu Ingole. The victims belonged to Nath Gosawi community, who move from one place to another in Maharashtra in search of food and work. The community whenever reaches any village they report their stay to the local police station. According to the police, the victims visited the village to seek alms at the weekly bazaar and were about to report their stay the next day. The police said that there was so much of anger in the mob that they didn’t allow the police to take custody of the bodies and wanted to burn them. The police have arrested the main accused Maharu Pawar, 22, and other 23 people so far in the case.

Looking at the incidents that happened in the past few months, the only thing that comes to mind is ‘Is social media turning anti-social at the hands of rumor mongers?’

What is lynching?
Lynching is a form of punishment for alleged criminal offenses and is performed by mobs or vigilantes without following the law. The victims are often tortured, harassed, beaten and killed. All these are done under the pretext of administering justice and of course without trial.


The term ‘lynch’ refers to a self-constituted court that imposes sentences without the process of law. The term is derived from the name of two Americans Charles Lynch and William Lynch, who lived in Virginia. The duo headed a court to punish loyalists during the American Revolution.

Series of Lynching
As many as 23 deaths have been reported across the country since the last two months following rumors, mostly spread through social networking sites. Here’s a list of cases reported in the past two months across the country.

Maharashtra

Date: July 1, 2018
Location: Dhule
Deaths: 5
Reason: The five, all related and members of the nomadic Gosavi community, were killed by a mob of over 3,500. The reason behind the lynching was the rumours about the presence of a gang who kidnap children and sell kidneys.

Date: July 1, 2018
Location: Malegaon
Deaths: No
Reason: Less than 12 hours after the Dhule Lynching case, the Maharashtra Police averted another incident of mob vigilantism and rescued a family of five – including a two-year old child. The family was attacked on suspicion of being kidnappers.

Date: June 15, 2018
Location:
 Chawani, Aurangabad
Death: 1
Reason: 
Two men – Mohan Sidha (38) and Vikram Bhati (26) – from Ujjain were attacked by a crowd on suspicion of collecting alms in disguise. The two were dressed in colourful clothes and would often come to offer namaz during Ramzan. Sidha lost his life while Bhati sustained severe injuries. Four people have been arrested in the case.

Date: June 8, 2018
Location:
 Chandgaon Village, Aurangabad
Deaths: 2
Reason:
Two people were lynched by a mob of around 300 people on suspicion that they were in the area to kidnap children. The two were among the group of eight people who had come to hunt animals. So far 12 people have been arrested on the case of murder.

Date: June 11, 2018
Location: Goregaon town, Gondia
Death: 1
Reason: A group of 30 people in Gondia beat a mentally challenged man to death who was spotted roaming the village. The video of the incident was shared widely on social media. After verifying the video, the police has arrested 11 men.

Gujarat

Date: June 26, 2018
Location: Ahmedabad
Death: 1
Reason: 40-year-old Shanta Devi was beaten to death by a mob of 30 people in Ahmedabad on the suspicion of being a child trafficker. A message ‘child lifters in the area’ was doing the rounds on social media and that triggered the lynching. The complaint filed by the victim’s sister-in-law mentions that they along with two other women were travelling in an auto-rickshaw when the attack happened.

Karnataka

Date: May 23, 2018
Location: Bengaluru
Deaths: 1
Reason: A 26-year-old construction labourer from Rajasthan was allegedly lynched on suspicion of being a child snatcher. The Chamarajpet Police have arrested 14 people in the case. The victim was attacked based on WhatsApp rumors about child-trafficking gangs on the prowl in the city.

Date: 5 July, 2018
Location: Ujjire town, Mangaluru
Death: No
Reason: A 30-year-old man identified as Kaleed who was travelling in an auto rickshaw with his two-year-old daughter was attacked by a mob in Mangaluru on suspicion of being a child lifter. The incident happened when he was scolding his daughter who was crying in the auto rickshaw. Two men saw the toddler crying and asked the auto rickshaw to stop and started beating him.

Tamil Nadu

Date: May 9, 2018
Location: Tiruvannamalai
Death: 1
Reason: A 65-year- old woman lynched to death by a mob of 200 in Athimoor. The lady was travelling to a temple with her relatives when they stopped and asked villagers for directions. She offered chocolates to the children who were playing nearby. She was attacked by the mob as they felt she offered chocolates to lure the children.

Date: May 9, 2018
Location
: Pulicat
Death: No
Reason: The second case was registered in a span of 24 hours. In the second incident, a man was beaten to death and hung from a bridge in Pulicat on suspicion that he was a child-lifter.

Chhattisgarh

Date: June 22, 2018
Location: Mendrakala village, Surguja
Death: 1
Reason: Rumours of a child kidnapping gang took the toll on another life in Ambikapur district on Chhattisgarh. According to the police, an unidentified man who was mentally challenged was lynched by a mob of 15.

West Bengal

Date: June 13, 2018
Location: Malda
Death: 1
Reason: A mob of 60 lynched a man, believed to be mentally unstable, to death.

Date: June 23, 2018
Location: Mathuri
Death: 1
Reason: A 36-year old who was on his way to meet an employer was attacked by a group of 1,000 people. His only fault was he covered his face due to the scorching heat and was seen talking to a minor girl.

Assam

Date: June 8, 2018
Location: Karbi Anglong district
Deaths: 2
Reason: Two friends, Nilotpal Das (29) and Abhijeet Nath (30), were lynched in Karbi Anglong district in Assam. The two friends had gone to Kangthilangso, a picnic spot in Karbi Anglong when a mob of 70 attacked them with bamboo poles and wooden sticks. The mob pulled the duo from the vehicle on suspicion of being child-lifters. The Assam Police have arrested more than 70 people for murder and spreading rumors.

Tripura

Date: June 28, 2018
Location: Sidhai Mohanpur
Death: 1
Reason: A 30-year-old hawker, identified as Zakir Khan, who along with three assistants was attacked by a mob of 1,000. The group was travelling in a van to sell their wares.

Date: June 28, 2018
Location: Kalachhara
Death: 1
Reason: 33-year-old Sukanta Chakraborty was hired by the Tripura Government to make people aware against rumours on social media. Chakraborty was attacked by a mob of 1,000.

Date: June 28, 2018
Location: Lakshmibil village, Sipahijala
Death: 1
Reason: On June 26, an 11-year-old boy’s body was found with several cut marks. And soon rumours spread over social media and word of mouth that the boy’s kidneys were removed. The post-mortem reports proved to be baseless.

Uttar Pradesh

Date: June 18, 2018
Location: Hapur
Death: 1
Reason: Following rumours of cow slaughter, a man was lynched in Hapur district of Uttar Pradesh. Initially, police denied cow slaughter to be the reason behind the lynching. But later videos of the incident shows a mob beating the man and asking him to confess that he slaughtered a cow. Later, police admitted cow slaughter the reason behind the lynching.

Andhra Pradesh

Date: May 28, 2018
Location: Chandrayangutta
Death: 1
Reason: A transgender in her early 50s was allegedly lynched to death by a mob in Hyderabad on suspicion of being a child lifter. Three others were also injured in the incident. The Hyderabad Police arrested fifteen people in the case.

Telangana

Date: May 23, 2018
Location: Jiyapalli village, Nalgonda
Death: 1
Reason: A 33-year-old autorickshaw driver N Balakrishna was lynched in Jiyapalli Village in Telangana outside a shop. N Balakrishna had gone to meet a relative but was mistaken for being a child lifter.

Supreme Court’s take on lynching

On July 3, the Supreme Court of India, while hearing a petition filed by activist Tehseen Poonawala against cow vigilantism, said that the states are responsible to prevent lynching and mob violence. The bench insisted that the state governments must be charged with a constitutional duty of maintaining law and order. The petition was argued by senior advocates Indira Jaising and Colin Gonsalves and was headed by a three-judge bench. The Dhule lynching case also drew the attention of the bench and said lynching was not acceptable in any society.

The apex court announced that it would frame guidelines in two weeks to prevent incidents of mob lynching and would ask governments that fail at preventing to pay compensation. It further clarified that the court would not look for the motives behind such incidents and would not consider any criteria – religion, sex, caste or creed – for compensation.

Meanwhile…

At a time when the Central Government plans to take steps to prevent cases of mob lynching, Union Minister Jayanti Sinha met and felicitated eight people convicted in the Ramgarh lynching case in Jharkhand. This was after the Jharkhand High Court granted bail to eight of them. The eight has been convicted for lynching a man named Alimuddin Ansari on June 29, 2017, in Ramgarh, Jharkhand. Ansari was attacked on suspicion of transporting beef.