Tamil Nadu has been gripped by panic after unfounded messages circulating on WhatsApp have gone viral asking people to not trust immigrants as they are part of child trafficking group. Two innocent people have reportedly lost their lives in less than 24 hours as people suspected them to be child traffickers. The first incident was reported from a bridge in Pulicat on Wednesday where the mob beat a man to death and hung him on suspicion that he was a child trafficker.
In the second case, a 63-year-old woman, Rukmani was lynched by a group of villagers in Tiruvannamalai district. The incident reportedly took place when the woman was travelling to the suburbs of Tiruvannamalai with her relatives to pay a visit to her family deity.
On their way, the family stopped the car at a village and Rukmani started handing out chocolates, procured from abroad, to children in the vicinity. The locals thought that she was trying to lure the kids with sweets and mounted an attack on her. Rukmani was taken to the hospital where she succumbed to her injuries. Meanwhile, four of her relatives suffered injuries and are undergoing treatment at a hospital.
In the first case, police have launched an investigation and have secured at least 20 people who were part of the mob while at least 30 people have been charged with murder in connection with the second case.
Apart from this, another case of lynching was reported from the state. Sanjay, migrant from North India, was tied to an electric pole and thrashed brutally. The police is investigating the matter and have found out that he was also a victim of the paranoia.
The police, meanwhile, have recognised the alarming effect of these messages on the general public and awareness drives are being organised across the state. Responding to the incidents, Pagalavan, SP, Vellore told CNN-News 18 that they have asked people not to believe in these fake messages. “People fear that their children may be kidnapped and to make them believe that such WhatsApp messages are false, we have formed police teams and are travelling to villages and asking people to not believe in false messages.” he said.
According to a report by TheNewsMinute, in Vellore, SP Pagalavan has dispatched autorickshaws with speakers to announce messages to the public and a similar method has been adopted in Kancheepuram too. Police officers travel in these autos, asking people to not panic and turn violent if they suspect that someone could be a child abductor.
The latest message that is being circulated, is an audio recording, purportedly by a man from Vellore. In this audio, the man alleges that 400 people had come to Tamil Nadu to abduct children. “I live in Vellore and two kilometres from my house a child was abducted by a Hindi speaker,” the audio from an unknown person begins.
He adds that the villagers caught him and rescued the child. The man claims that after rescuing the child, the villagers beat the kidnapper and called the police. He adds that when the police came he fervently stood in the middle of the road and said “400 of us have come to the Tamil Nadu to kidnap people. Even if you kill me now in an encounter, the others will ensure that the kids are kidnapped and taken away.”
“This happened on May 1 in Vellore. Why I am saying is that even if they are not only four people, we should still be careful. We have to protect our children. Whoever is listening to this, please share this with your neighbours, with your family and you relatives if they don’t know this,” the audio recording says.