Govt asks states and UTs to curb lynchings fuelled by rumours of ‘child-lifters’

The ministry of home affairs (MHA) on Thursday asked the states and Union Territories (UTs) to check incidents of mob lynching fuelled by rumours of child-lifting on social media.

The advisory comes after more than 20 people were lynched over the last two months on suspicion of child-lifting, the latest being the killing of five men in Maharashtra’s Dhule district.

The ministry has now urged the states and UTs to “keep a watch for early detection of rumours of child-lifting and initiate effective measures to counter them”.

The states and UTs have been asked to direct district administrations to identify vulnerable areas and conduct community outreach programmes for creating awareness and building confidence.

“The Centre has asked the states and UTs to take measures to prevent incidents of mob lynching fuelled by rumours of child-lifting circulating on social media,” an MHA spokesperson said.

The ministry has also directed the state governments to properly investigate the complaints of child abduction or kidnapping to instil confidence among the affected people. The centre on Tuesday had directed WhatsApp, the US-based messaging platform, to take steps to prevent the spread of “irresponsible and explosive messages”.

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that finding technological fixes to identify mass-circulation of messages on a particular issue, in a particular area cannot be “rocket science”, and that social media cannot evade its responsibility.

Responding to the government’s directions, WhatsApp on Wednesday said that fake news, misinformation, and hoaxes can be checked by the government, civil society and technology companies working together.

Two people were lynched in Tripura on June 28 and two in Assam last month on suspicion of child-lifting.

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