Nilotpal Das’s father describes the musician as broad-minded and amicable. (Facebook: Nilotpal Das)
Two men have been beaten to death by an angry mob in the Indian state of Assam because of false rumours spread on social media about child kidnapping gangs.
- WhatsApp is a leading social media platform in India, and is often the main way people in rural areas access the interned
- The viral messages stoking the violence have been debunked as fake
- Mobs have so far killed eight people as authorities struggle to contain the hysteria
The pair had stopped to ask for directions when they were killed; their deaths filmed by attackers who then shared the gory videos online.
One of the victims, 29-year-old musician Nilotpal Das, can be seen covered in blood and pleading for his life.
Mr Das had travelled extensively through India and was described by his grieving father in Indian media as “broad-minded and amicable”.
His friend, 30-year-old Abhijeet Nath, was also killed.
Abhijeet Nath was travelling with his friend when they were killed in Assam. (Facebook: Abhijeet Nath)
Police have arrested at least 20 people over the killings.
The pair are the latest victims in a wave of violence fuelled by false WhatsApp messages about child kidnappers on the loose.
WhatsApp is a leading social media network in India, with 200 million users in the country.
In rural communities, it is often the primary way people access the internet.
Viral videos debunked as fake
The viral social media messages stoking the violence have been debunked as fake.
They include videos from a child safety campaign filmed in Pakistan that have been re-edited to look like local warnings of criminal activity.
Some local news networks even picked up the viral videos and reported them as real.
Mobs reacting to the rumours have so far killed eight people across several states in India, and local authorities are struggling to contain the hysteria.
In May, police arrested 30 people after a woman was lynched for handing out candy to children.
In similar cases, men who arrive in small villages to visit relatives, or who do not speak the local dialect, have been lynched or beaten to death on suspicion of being child kidnappers.
Kidnapping and child rape are a serious concern in India.
Crimes against children jumped 11 per cent between 2015 and 2016, according to data from India’s National Crime Record Bureau.
In that year 111,569 children — three-quarters of them girls — were reported missing.
Authorities in India sometimes resort to shutting down the internet to control the spread of information or misinformation on social media.
Mobile internet services were suspended in the area of the killings for one day, in an attempt to stem the violence and rumours.