Indian state cuts Internet after three new lynchings

AFP, NEW DELHI

Sat, Jun 30, 2018 - Page 6

Authorities in India’s Tripura State have cut Internet access after mobs beat three people to death in the latest cases of lynchings sparked by false rumors spread on smartphones, officials said yesterday.

The killings are just the latest in India to be sparked by false rumors of gangs of child kidnappers spreading like wildfire on WhatsApp in recent months.

“The administration has decided to cut off the Internet and mobile messaging services for next 48 hours ... to stop rumor mongering,” state police spokesman Smriti Ranjan Das said.

The victims, one of whom was tasked by authorities with warning people against hoaxes, perished in three separate incidents on Thursday.

People in Sabroom attacked “rumor buster” Sukanta Chakraborty with sticks and bricks as he was warning people on a megaphone against fake information.

“It was a sudden and vicious attack and they didn’t get time to escape,” Das said.

Hours before in West Tripura District, a mob of nearly 1,000 people attacked four traders from Uttar Pradesh State, killing one and leaving the others critically injured.

The four took refuge inside a paramilitary camp after hundreds of people believing them to be child kidnappers chased their vehicle after they stopped for a tea break on a road.

However, the mob entered the base and dragged all four from the car, attacking them with sticks and rods as soldiers unsuccessfully tried to break up the crowd by firing warning shots.

Das identified the victim as Zahir Khan. A soldier was also critically injured.

Hours before in the same area, a mob set upon an unidentified woman after she was spotted by residents walking around their village, Das said.

The woman in her 40s was beaten with batons and dragged across the village as residents chanted “death to child lifters,” police said.

No arrests have been made in the cases, but authorities said they were questioning suspects.