NEW DELHI – A woman was lynched in central India on rumors that she was part of a gang that kidnapped children, police said Monday, days after the country's highest court called for immediate steps to control deadly mob violence across the country.
At least 14 people were arrested in Madhya Pradesh state's Singrauli district following the killing of the woman, who was about 25, senior police officer Riyaz Iqbal said.
Iqbal said residents informed police on Saturday that a woman's body was lying in a forested area. Police recovered the body, which bore multiple injury marks, he said. An initial investigation showed that she had been taken Friday night by a mob which dragged her to a village community center while punching and kicking her and hitting her with sticks.
Iqbal said the woman was seen roaming around neighboring villages a few days earlier amid wild rumors that members of child kidnapping gangs were active in the area.
The officer said the woman had not yet been identified. "She was not able to properly communicate with the mob and in all probability appears to have been mentally unsound," he said.
India has a long history of mob violence, but in recent years, the internet and smartphones have aided the circulation of deadly rumors even to remote places.
At least 25 people have been lynched and dozens wounded in mob attacks in the last three months over rumors that they were part of child kidnapping gangs.
In addition, at least 20 people have been lynched and dozens wounded by Hindu extremists who call themselves cow protectors and are linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janta Party.
Most of the attacks by the so-called cow vigilantes have targeted Muslims, who make up 14 percent of India's 1.3 billion people. Hindus make up about 80 percent of the population.
The victims have been accused of either smuggling cows for slaughter or eating beef. Lower-caste Hindus who carry out undesirable tasks such as skinning dead cattle have also faced mob violence.
Last Tuesday, India's highest court asked the federal government to consider enacting a law to deal with mob violence.
The Indian government recently accused the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp of fueling the deadly rumors. The service responded last Thursday by announcing restrictions on the number of groups to which a message can be forwarded. In India, the limit on forwarding is five chats at once, while for WhatsApp users outside India, the limit on forwarding will be 20.