Indian police on Tuesday urged the public against believing rumours on social media after a sixth person falsely accused of being a child trafficker was killed by an angry mob.
A transgender woman was lynched and three others seriously injured in Hyderabad city over the weekend by a crowd that linked them to a child exploitation ring that police say does not exist.
The 52-year-old’s murder was the sixth this month in southern India prompted by false and persistent rumours on social media about a child kidnapping gang, police said.
A 42-year-old man was beaten to death last week in Nizamabad district, about 160 kilometres (100 miles) from Hyderabad, after a mob accused him of being a child kidnapper.
“There are no kidnapping gangs in Hyderabad,” the city’s police commissioner Anjani Kumar told AFP on Tuesday. “We warn (the) public… (against) harming anyone based on rumours on social media.”
Dozens of police officers and locals marched through the southern city on Monday evening with loudspeakers urging people not to take the law into their own hands.
“Don’t believe the rumours,” the policemen chanted.
Police have arrested 35 people in connection with the beating of the transgender woman on Saturday. She died in hospital on Sunday.
Authorities have issued warnings in Telangana — where the attack occurred — and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu states where vigilantes have murdered four others this month over the same rumour.
A hundreds-strong mob killed a labourer and injured seven others on May 20 in Andhra Pradesh, believing the men were linked to a child trafficking gang. His death came a day after a beggar was lynched for the same reason in the same coastal state. Police said most of the victims were not from the localities where they were killed.
Officials are yet to find any cases of child kidnapping related to the videos circulating on social media platforms like WhatsApp. But a dozen people have been arrested for circulating the videos, which show men hoisting a child from outside a home and mutilating an infant.