NEW DELHI – Eight people have been murdered by lynch mobs across India in less than a week, officials said Thursday, as law enforcement struggles to curb a recent spate of vigilante killings.
Angry mobs turned on victims in five separate Indian states, many motivated by rumours of child kidnapping or allegations of thievery or sexual harassment.
In the capital New Delhi on Wednesday, a 32-year-old man was beaten to death by four men wielding iron bars who accused the victim of harassing a woman, police said. Three arrests have been made.
On the same day in eastern Jharkhand state, two Muslims accused of stealing cattle were dragged from their car and killed by tribespeople in the district of Godda.
Local police chief Rajiv Ranjan said four of the attackers — who were armed with bows and arrows — had been arrested and a search was underway for the others.
In neighbouring West Bengal also on Wednesday, a homeless man accused of abducting children was tied to an electricity pylon and beaten to death with clubs. Police said three arrests have been made.
The rash of murders followed four lynchings on Friday, including a brutal assault caught on camera that prompted outrage and calls for tougher laws on vigilante assailants.
The gruesome video shot in northeastern Assam state showed two men accused of kidnapping children pleading for their lives as they were dragged from their car and murdered.
That same day, two labourers were killed in Maharashtra state some 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) away after being accused of theft.
Police have struggled to douse persistent rumours on social media about a child kidnapping ring that motivated six vigilante killings across India in May. Officials say no such trafficking network exists.
Public awareness campaigns have been launched urging Indians to ignore videos circulating on Facebook and WhatsApp purporting to show children being abducted by men.