On Wednesday, a 25-year-old man was lynched to death by a mob of angry residents in Bengaluru’s Bakshi Garden on suspicion that he was a child trafficker.

Mob lynching Fake WhatsApp messages on child trafficking spread to Bengaluru
news Crime Thursday, May 24, 2018 - 18:49

“What if he took our children and dismembered their bodies? Should we be quiet? That’s why the people beat him up,” this is what angry residents of Bengaluru’s Bakshi Garden had to say after the brutal lynching of a man perceived to be a child trafficker.

In a barbaric act, 25-year-old Kalu Ramu was lynched to death by a mob of several hundred residents from the area.

The wrath of the residents of Anjanappa Garden in Chamarajpet was triggered by the sight of Ramu allegedly distributing chocolates and sweets to a few children. In a state of panic and angered by what they perceived as an intruder set out to harm their children, the residents descended upon Ramu and began beating him brutally with wooden sticks, iron rods and cricket bats.

Several terrifying videos of the violence doled out to Ramu have emerged, in which people are heard shouting “child abuductor, beat him”.

Soaked in blood, Ramu was unconscious and did not have the strength to speak or even scream as the people brutally assaulted him.

Soon the police Hoysala arrived at the spot and the people ran away. Ramu died a few minutes after being taken to Victoria Hospital.

Similarly, in another part of Anjanappa Garden, a mob was brutally assaulting two men – Manjunath and Rajkumar. When the beat police arrived, they handed the two men over. The Cottonpet Police have registered a case of attempted murder against unidentified persons. Unlike Ramu, Rajkumar and Manjunath were fortunate that the police arrived and saved them.

Similar incidents have been reported in Tamil Nadu and Telangana, where paranoid mobs have brutally lynched people, who they assumed were child abductors, to death.

The cause for panic and incidents of violence, according to the police and residents, are WhatsApp messages doing the round that are asking people to beware of predators involved in child trafficking.

What caused the people of Chamarajpet to panic?

Muniayappa, a 35-year-old mason and resident of Anjanappa Garden, received a message on a WhatsApp group he was a part of.

The message contained a collage of several dismembered bodies of children. One of the pictures in the collage also has a person wearing a mask harvesting organs. The picture also contained a message: “All mothers and fathers, beware and share this message. Beware of child abductors. A gang of child abductors from Kerala are now in Karnataka and are harvesting organs of children.”

Along with the horrifying picture, a video, which is even more chilling, has been circulating. The video has a few men walking around with sickles and dismembered bodies of minors lying on the floor. One man is seen carrying an arm, looking for a place to dump it.

Another message asks residents of Karnataka to beware of people coming in from Bihar and Orissa. “We have 400 people now in Karnataka. You cannot stop us from taking away your children,” a man is seen talking in the video.

Muniyappa says that over the past one month, residents of Anjanappa Garden, Chitatnagar, Giripuram, Cheluvajipalya, Ananadapuram and Bakshi Garden have been receiving such messages, leading to a lot of fear.

“We all live in slums. The houses are very small. When we are cooking or doing any work, the children are playing outside. As it is, these messages keep us on high alert. Tell me, wouldn’t you go to any extent to protect your child? The people were also doing just that. He was seen giving chocolates to the children and trying to lure them out of the area,” says Ramamurthy, a resident of Ananadapuram.

Arrests and ruckus outside Chamarajpet Police Station

In the wee hours of Thursday, the Chamarajpet Police arrested 14 persons, including two minor boys, for assaulting Kalu Ramu.

Gopi (18), Anbu (26), Vasanth Kumar (32), Balan (30), Nanda (20), Thiramalesh (28), Rajesh (18), Anusha (30), Anusha (37), Indira (37), Vani (41) and the two minor boys, aged 14 and 16, were booked under sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly committed in persecution of common object) and section 302 (murder) read with 149.

“If the people suspected that Ramu was trying to abduct their children, they should have handed him over to the police and filed a complaint. Or they should have detained him until the police arrived to take stock of the situation. People cannot take law into their hands and kill others because of some sense of justice they perceive to be true. There is a law in our country, anyone who breaks it will face consequences,” Assistant Commissioner of Police, KR Market range, Niranjan Urs, said.

At around 11.30 am, several residents of Anjanappa Garden and Bakshi Garden along with friends and family members of the arrested accused gathered around the Chamarajpet Police Station demanding the release of those who were arrested.

“At around 2.00 am they came and took our family members. They told us that since they were eyewitnesses, they needed their statements. The police promised to bring them back in a few hours. Now they have booked them for murder. My son is inside. His name is Anbu. What should we do? Sit quietly when that man was going to abduct some children in front of our eyes?” said 48-year-old Dhanalakshmi.

Several women were seen crying for their loved ones who were arrested. Some claimed that their relatives were not even present at the spot when the incident occurred. They began shouting, demanding that the police release those who were arrested. However, several women police officers pacified the women and sent them home.

Awareness campaigns

According to ACP Urs, the police were aware of the fake WhatsApp messages being circulated and had been creating awareness among people.

“Our beat constables have been going to these areas and telling people not to fall for such fake messages, that the sole purpose of these messages is to create panic and wreak havoc. There is nothing factual about these videos but it is hard for people to believe it is false as the message comes with a video. Their argument is – there is a video, how can you say this is not happening?” ACP Urs added.

The ACP said that the beat constables will now go around different areas in the city with loudspeakers and make announcements about the fake messages and how they have been inciting violence.

The Cyber Crime Police have issued a warning statement, which reads. “Fake messages are spreading on SM channels regarding children trafficking. We ensure that it’s all false rumours, don't believe it, get annoyed or panic. If you find such suspects inform us, will take action. Criminal action will be taken against those spreading such false news.”

Similar incidents in Tamil Nadu and Telangana

Two weeks ago, in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvannamalai district, a family of five from Chennai, who had stopped their car at Polur to visit a temple, were assaulted, chased and attacked by a mob of 200 people. This hostility from the villagers of Athimoor was triggered by the visitors distributing sweets to children in the village. Labelling them child traffickers, angry villagers descended on them, killing a 65-year-old woman, Rukmani, in the group.

Thirty-year-old Ganesh* had been roaming on the streets of Palaverkadu for several months now. According to the police, most people in the area were aware of his mental condition and kept their distance. But on May 9, close to 90 villagers attacked the man, broke his nose and pierced his eyes. They then tied a noose around his neck and hung him to death from a bridge.

CCTV footage of a little boy being snatched away by two motorists has been doing the rounds in TN, ‘alerting’ people about how kidnappers operate. However, the video is not from India, but was an educational video made in Karachi at least a year ago to warn parents about child traffickers.

On Tuesday night, Nimmala Balakrishna was allegedly lynched in Ziapalli in Telangana on suspicion of being a child abductor when he came to the village to visit one of his relatives. In Chengal village of Nizamabad, two tribal youth – Devya Naik and Degavath Laalu – were tied with ropes and beaten mercilessly with iron rods and sticks by locals who suspected that they were involved in child trafficking. The youth had allegedly gone to the forest area to pluck mangoes. The youth were shifted to Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) in Hyderabad, where Devya succumbed while Degavath’s condition is said to be critical.

In Hyderabad, a man with mental health problems was thrashed by a mob over rumours that he was a member of the deadly interstate Pardhi dacoit gang. However, with the timely intervention of the police, the victim was saved from the agitated mob.

Three kinds of messages are in circulation, according to the police in Telangana. While one refers to an interstate gang of thieves, another mentions a gang that is kidnapping children. The third kind is communally sensitive messages that are in Hindi.

“While Telugu and Kannada messages are apparently surfacing from Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district and other border areas, the communally sensitive messages in Hindi are apparently coming from north India,” SP Rema Rajeshwari had said.

Read: False Whatsapp messages on child abduction trigger violence in TN, killing two

 In this WhatsApp obsessed Telangana dist, cops teach locals how to tackle fake news

Child kidnapping video spreading panic in Tamil Nadu is actually from Pakistan

Two more killed in Telangana as rumours of robbers spread, DGP appeals for calm

Arrests, videos and clarifications: AP, Telangana cops up efforts to tackle fake news

Mentally ill man thrashed by Hyderabad mob on suspicion of being a dacoit





Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.