So far, 10 people have died in Maharashtra following attacks by mobs over similar fake messages. (File)
The key accused in the mob attack driven by WhatsApp messages in Maharashtra’s Dhule — in which five men were killed on July 1 — has been arrested. The man has been identified as one Dasrath Pawar, the police said. So far, 26 people have been arrested in the case. The police said the men were attacked because of rumours that were doing the rounds on WhatsApp about the presence of people in the area who kidnapped children for their organs.
The police said the men who were killed belonged to the nomadic Nath Gosavi community, a peaceful tribe with no criminal records that survives by begging door-to-door for food. A group of the nomads had arrived in the Rain Pada village from Solapur that morning. Some of them had gone into the village to beg, when they were set upon by the locals.
The trouble had started after one of the men was seen trying to speak to a six-year-old girl, the police said.
#Maharashtra: Main accused of Dhule lynching incident (at centre in picture) has been arrested by Local crime branch (LCB) squad. 5 people were lynched to death on suspicion of child theft in Rainpada village of Dhule district on July 1. pic.twitter.com/R13AlJGFZ5
— ANI (@ANI) July 8, 2018
Soon, a crowd of 3000 had gathered from neighbouring villages and the outsiders were locked up in a room of the local panchayat office.
As a section of locals tried to decide what to do with them, a huge group of villagers broke open the door and attacked the men.
Horrific videos of the attack that made the rounds on social media shows the crowd hitting the men with sticks, rods and chappals and hurling stones and bricks. By the time the police reached, all five were dead.
The WhatsApp videos that had triggered the attack were fake – one of them was a five-year-old video from Syria that had photographs of children who died in a nerve gas attack. It is doing the rounds in Dhule, Nashik and Nandurbar – remote areas, which ironically, do not have mobile network.
So far, 10 people have died in Maharashtra alone following attacks by mobs over similar fake messages.