TWO men were beaten to death by a lynch mob after WhatsApp rumours claimed they were child snatchers in a chilling new trend sweeping India.
Nilotpal Das Abijeet Nath were killed after they stopped at a village to ask for directions.
Police have arrested 16 people in connection with the killings in Panjuri Kachari, in the north –eastern state of Assam.
A resident has also been arrested for “spreading fake news”, reports the Indian Express.
Rumours of child kidnappings are spreading across India over WhatsApp, and have already led to the deaths of six other people in the past month.
The two latest victims were both residents of Guwahati, the largest city in Assam.
They had been travelling in a black SUV when they stopped at the village at around 7.30pm local time on Friday.
Earlier, rumours had circulated that two men had kidnapped a child and fled in a black car, according to local media reports.
Senior police official Mukesh Agarwal told the BBC: “When rumours start circulating on social media, it takes some time to stop them completely.”
The officer said police were watching various social media sites to try to stop the spread of the messages.
A video of the latest attack went viral over the weekend, where one of the men can be seen pleading for his life.
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On Sunday, students and activists filled the streets of Guwahati to protest against the killings.
The state government has said it has dedicated special control rooms to counter rumours as well as provide awareness drives to prevent panic spreading in the region.
Although it’s not clear how the rumours started, India has seen a rise of mob justice and vigilantism.
In some cases, doctored video messages showing children being snatched from streets have gone viral, prompting locals to beat up any one who looks unfamiliar or cannot speak the regional language.
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