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India arrests 18 after two men lynched over WhatsApp rumours
Police action comes after outrage over the killing of two men on 'child kidnapping' rumours circulated on social media.
by Abdul Gani
12 hours ago
People rallied in Guwahati demanding justice for the youth lynched in Karbi Anglong district [Biju Boro/AFP]
People rallied in Guwahati demanding justice for the youth lynched in Karbi Anglong district [Biju Boro/AFP]
Guwahati, India - Police in the Indian state of Assam have arrested at least 18 people in connection with the lynching of two youths following rumours on social media and WhatsApp that they were child traffickers.
Abhijit Nath and Nilotpal Das were beaten to death on Saturday by a mob of around 200 people in a remote village of Karbi Anglong district, some 200km east of the state capital, Guwahati.
The duo is the latest victims of rumours circulating on social media, particularly WhatsApp, about the child kidnapping gangs.
Deadly rumours: India's WhatsApp dilemma
"We have taken strict measures against the culprits and arrested 18 individuals. We have also arrested some persons who were involved in spreading rumours on social media," Director General of Assam Police (DGP) Kuladhar Saikia told Al Jazeera.
The clip of the lynching was widely shared on social media, which showed Das pleading with folded hands: "Don't kill me ... Please don't beat me. I am an Assamese … Please let me go."
Nath, 30, and Das, 29, had gone to remote Panjuri Kachari village on Saturday for sightseeing in a black four-wheel drive, when they were chased and beaten to death on the suspicion of child kidnapping.
"There was a rumour that some child abductors had entered our village. This was shared via WhatsApp and Facebook. The message also read that one of the abductors had long hair," said a village woman at Panjuri Kachari village who didn't wish to be named.
"The youth were stopped and asked about their whereabouts. But in between some local people came and started thrashing them," the woman said.
Following the incident, police have alerted all the districts to keep a strict vigil on social media and rumour mongering.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has asked the state police chief Saikia to ensure that the police force maintains vigilance to ensure peace.
Mob lynching is a primal instinct. No one knows why they are lynching, but all seem to be cast under a spell to kill.
TINAT ATIFA MASOOD, ACTIVIST BASED IN GUWAHATI
"I urge everyone to maintain peace and social harmony and not to fall prey to rumours. We won't spare anyone and strictest of punishment will be given to the culprits," the chief minister posted on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Assam government has decided to constitute a special unit for cyber monitoring to prevent attempts to spread rumours and to cause social disturbances.
The incident has caused an outrage, with thousands of people coming out on the streets of Guwahati demanding justice for the victims.
What is behind India's epidemic of 'mob lynching'?
Das, who sported dreadlocks, was a musician based in the state of Goa, and Nath was a Guwahati based businessman.
Gopal Chandra Das, the father of Das, said that his son always enjoyed outdoors.
"He travelled many places in the country. He loved to go to the hill stations. He would play music and wanted to do something, but destiny had other plans. I asked him not to go alone there (Karbi Anglong). But he went ahead," said the senior Das as he burst into tears ahead of the last rites of the two youths in Guwahati.
Mob violence spreading through social media has been on the rise in India. During the last two years, more than 10 such incidents have been reported from different parts of the country.
Last May, two youths were lynched in Assam's Nagaon district on the suspicion of stealing cows.
"Mob lynching is a primal instinct. No one knows why they are lynching, but all seem to be cast under a spell to kill," activist Tinat Atifa Masood told Al Jazeera.
"Over the last few years, the number of people lynched has gone up. A person is lynched for being different from 'the others' in their looks, culinary choices, their attire and their philosophy. And since the government of the day has been quiet on this issue, the ugly head of mob lynching is now a new normal in India," she said.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS
Wiki Info on Guwahati
Arrived here 4pm and at first went to check on Prashaanti Tourist Lodge. As it says in the LP it is central but we found that 1) Not very friendly 2) Could not accomodate 3 persons in a room 4) Provided NO sheets - mattresses looked very old. Crossed back over the RR and found a very nice, LP recommended place,Sundarban Guest House...clean, TV, AC, and reasonable! They had all the things Prashaanti lacked plus the personnel were friendly! Amazing how tired travel on the train can be though! We all crashed until going to dinner nearby.
Had breakfast as room service...eggs, toast, tea...then headed out to find $$$!! Totally unsuccessfully finding long lines and very few banks open with money. Also, we attempted to find some tour agency that could help with planning forward travel...spent the entire day walking, walking and on tuk tuks trying to locate these places. At one point late in the day we had to take two tuk tuks and the instructions for our destination weren't passed along. Bon and Mari ended up returning to Sundarban GH and Daphne, Joey, and I got to the Jungle Travels India Office but since I thought Bon and Mari were following so I stood in the meridian watching for them for 20 minutes. Finally, the fellow who had driven us here returned with the other tuk tuk driver who told us that he had taken them back since he lost track of our driver.Very nice of him to follow up.
Got more info on travel with guide from Jungle Travels outfit which they later emailed to Daphne.
Once we returned there was a big discussion as to what to do since a tour is pricey but able to be put on credit card (no cash necessary) but it appears getting money will be very difficult outside of Guwahati! For the first time in all our travels, we have no way foward without Indian currency...they just have no rupees in sufficient quantities to supply the demand. It is very possible that the gals could get stranded somewhere with no way to go forward.
Discussing the possible travel to Nepal until we need to return to Calcutta for our flight to Andamans with the hope that by then money will be more available, especially on the islands where there are more tourists. Here we have seen NO other foreigners and no evidence of tourists!
The girls went out for the day to try again to get $$$ and were successful using US emergency money only because there was a UK citizen from India who argued with the bank officials, even threatening to call the news media to take pictures showing how they were treating visiting tourists so poorly! Watching TV news about India I discovered that the government has decided to REDUCE the amount anyone can withdraw to 2,000 rupees plus they are requiring each withdrawal person to get a black fingerprint so people don't withdraw $$$ for other people and suck the ATMs dry. They reported that only 25% of the population has debit cards or credit cards so the poorest people are the ones who are suffering most.
A very interesting result of this is that temples are experiencing a huge increase in donations, almost ALL in 500 and 1000 rupee notes!
Since they were able to get enough Indian cash from the bank to travel and could pay the tour fee and permit with US currency, the gals decided to go for it and 'travel the NE' like they had originally planned.
Gals all left today on their tour...an interesting departure in which Mari left her tablet behind! I speculated how long it would take for her to remember (her survival depends upon it, ha!). She returned about 45 min. later to collect it! They expect to return sometime around the 15th or 16th of December when we will carry on together back towards Calcutta...perhaps a stop in Darjeeling?!
I was able to move to a smaller room which only has a few TV channels, all Indian, and no AC for 700 r. per nite.(was paying 500 r. in our 3 person room, but there we had AC and tons of channels many in English)
Today was my first 'on my own' day and I spent it listening to lots of my favorite 60s & 70s tunes...if you have Facebook you know how it can be addictive sometimes. Well, that's where I was...ALL DAY! Wow.
The gals got off and to their destination, Kazaringa National Park (on map to the east of Guwahati/Dispur) where Bon wrote:
"had a fun jeep safari this afternoon to Kazaringa, saw lots of rhinos, birds, deer, elephants working, and ... ?? Leave tom for Lohtak and over to Majullli - should be good." See map:
I hope to get an update each day or at least once every several days.
Still no word from the gals...not surprising given the conditions described in the LP about the NE states. Last nite I had supper (my thali) with two women traveling together to here. Edith from Belgium and Nicole from France. They will be going separate ways today. I went to the restaurant Edith mentioned last nite for breakfast and lo and behold she showed up there. We had a nice chat, turned out she sold her 'farm' in the country in 2008. She had worked on it for 11+ years teaching circus activities to teens year round...sounded like somewhat of a social work deal with kids that had issues as well as regular teens who came to learn juggling, rope walking, different activities in the circus. Interesting concept. She is leaving for Majuli Island this afternoon.
I am slowly plugging away at filling in the journal for the previous trip. The wifi connection is the best we've had this time in India but even at that it takes an hour to upload photos and write the entry for each day! The only thing which keeps me at it is a kind of reliving the journey in a sense and thinking about aspects which only now I realise were turning points in my thinking about travel in general. Very glad I did the travel but I will not miss it in the future.
Yesterday I watched a video that to my mind conclusively makes the case that humans have a 100% chance of becoming extinct before 2040! This leaves me guessing about the immediate (not until after we return from Baja) future. My inclination is to "prepare" or attempt to become and actively encouraging resilience in an effort to bring family and friends closer. An attempt at some sort of survival goal! However, according to his evidence, the rise in temperatures worldwide during the next ?? short period will be so dramatic, it will not allow for ANY adaptations....Mass die offs - land and oceans. The feedback loops, none of which known to exist just 5 years ago now number 26! Incredible! See video if you dare:
The Beginning of the End
Since I haven't heard from the gals in almost a week, I thought I might report on what I've been up to. Every day as more or less the same...up, do exercises, clean up a bit, eat breakfast (room service - eggs, toast, and tea), check the internet (FB, email, & website), and then begin my filling in the gaps I left in the last trip...journal entry and photos. It takes me about an hour or two to do each day, but I get a bit tired of it so sometimes I head outside. This town is crazy with traffic as are all big Indian towns, lots of noise, air pollution, etc. So I don't stay out more that an hour or so. Have a permanent cough that seems to just hang on probably due to the air.
I only eat two meals a day since I am quite sedentary...late-afternoon I do my exercise routine again and then head to a local cafe for my usual 50 rupee (less than a dollar) thali. In the eve I check internet again, maybe read some (finished all my hand held books) and go to bed about 11. That's it. Pretty boring but I have enjoyed the peace and quiet and chance to meditate (yes, I do that part of the time as well...although, not as successfully as I'd like).
Only Indians stay in this place, I think businessmen, see no women. I like it because it has very good internet connection, best we've found in India. Plus, no power outages...once only and then their backup generator kicked in right away.
Email from Bon on 23rd would indicate I might hear from gals around the 30th or so:
"We leave at 5:30 AM tomorrow morning - why I don't know!!! GAG! So no wifi for next 6-7 days."
Today as part of my walking/exercise routine I tried out LP recommended Cafe Coffee Day. Place was a bit hard to find (2nd floor), empty of people, overpriced, no wifi, and very little on offer for snacks anyway. I could have eaten a whole meal elsewhere for what I paid (foolish me) for a hot chocolate. I thought I might encounter students or other locals here, especially being a Saturday but no one. Maybe it's busier in eve.