Two more people were killed in separate incidents in Telangana after locals severely thrashed them, suspecting that they were robbers, due to fake news doing the rounds on social media and WhatsApp.
The first incident took place at Jiyapally village in Bibinagar mandal, close to Hyderabad city, where a 33-year-old auto driver was allegedly lynched by a mob late on Tuesday night.
The man, identified as Nimmala Balakrishna, had gone to visit a relative and was in an inebriated state and walking alone, when locals caught and thrashed him on the suspicion that he was a thief. He succumbed to his injuries while being shifted for treatment.
The second incident took place at Chengal village in Nizamabad district's Bheemgal mandal. Locals who feared for their lives after rumours of a robber gang did the rounds, attacked a tribal man, Malavath Devya, who later died while undergoing treatment at a Hyderabad hospital.
Another tribal person was also beaten along with Devya and he is presently undergoing treatment.
Following the death, Kamareddy superintendent of police N. Swetha and Nizamabad commissioner of police Kartikeya appealed to people against getting carried away by messages on social media.
Director General of Police M. Mahender Reddy also addressed mediapersons on Wednesday and said that there were no inter-state gangs that were active in Telangana and assured people that they need not take law in their own hands.
“In both cases, the victims were innocent and not related to any gang. When they were caught by the locals and questioned, they could not give satisfactory answers and were killed,” Reddy was quoted as saying.
"You need to trust the police and we are doing all that we can to ensure that law is enforced. Don’t take law in your hands. We are strengthening the social media monitoring cell and also training officials to identify the source of these messages. We will soon be setting up Twitter and Facebook pages for all local police stations so that we are accessible,” the DGP told reporters.
For the past few months, a fake message has been doing the rounds that a "Pardhi gang", a notorious group, have entered Telugu states with the intention of kidnapping children.
The fake news has created panic in many districts with several incidents of people being attacked on the suspicion that they belong to the Pardhi gang.
Police across districts have gone on to issue a clarification that there is no movement of any such group and people should not believe in any such rumours.