By Anindita Sanyal,
Bidar, Karnataka: A 32-year-old software engineer was beaten to death and four others – one of them a Qatar national — were seriously injured over WhatsApp-driven rumours of child kidnapping in Karnataka’s Bidar. The police said the mob frenzy started after the man from Qatar was seen distributing chocolates to local children. The police have arrested 32 people.
The techie, Mohammad Azam, had gone for a drive on Friday with four others when they were stopped at the roadside. Mr Azam’s friend Mohammad Salam, who was from Qatar, was seen handing chocolates to children.
Rumours of child lifting were doing the rounds in the area and seeing the chocolates being handed out, residents of a nearby village, Murki, sent messages on a WhatsApp group.
Soon, a large crowd gathered and started an argument and taking videos. Panicking, the men got into their car and drove away. Some of the villagers chased them on motorcycles, said the police. Some way off, the speeding car hit one of the motorcycles and fell into a culvert.
As the crowd caught up, the men were dragged out of the car and brutally beaten up, said eye witnesses. Hundreds of villagers gathered but none came to their rescue. By the time the police arrived, Mohammad Azam had died. The others were taken to the hospital in Hyderabad.
“They had gone out for a drive. My brother gave chocolates to children. We don’t know what their parents thought but several villagers gathered and beat them. How can they think they were kidnappers?” said Mohammad Azam’s brother Akram. Appealing to the government to stop mob killings, Akram said, “My brother was a software engineer, father of a 2-year-old. He was just a regular guy”.
The other four – cousins and friends of Mr Azam — were badly injured. One of them is fighting for his life at a local hospital.
Among the 32 arrested for the killing, one is the administrator of the WhatsApp group. There were also women among those arrested, sources said.
More than 20 people have been killed across India over fake WhatsApp rumours. The last such incident took place in Maharashtra’s Dhule, where five people were killed. 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.