The dangers of fake news become alarming as five nomads are lynched in Maharashtra after a doctored video of child lifters spreads fear and hate.
RAINPADA in Dhule district is one among the several Adivasi hamlets that dot the hilly region on the Maharashtra-gujarat border. An outpost with a population of just 900, which barely sees any vehicular traffic barring a few motorcycles and the occasional State transport bus, its remoteness is striking. On July 1, this agricultural village shed its obscurity when it witnessed a gruesome incident: a mob lynched five men, suspecting them to be child lifters. The five men belonged to the nomadic Nath Gosavi community, whose members wander in search of food and work from place to place.
An incident such as this, happening that too in a remote and sparsely inhabited village, gave rise to several questions: Why is the number of lynching incidents increasing? What were the victims doing in a remote village, which rarely sees outsiders? How did information about their presence spread so quickly? How did the mob form so quickly and reach Rainpada in less than an hour? Where were the law enforcement authorities?
Since the beginning of this year, Maharashtra and Jharkhand have witnessed nine lynchings each, Tripura three, West Bengal and Assam two each and Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana one each.
The Rainpada incident, like in the other instances elsewhere, exposes the dangers of digital technology, especially misinformation spread via messaging applications
such as Whatsapp. The state does not seem to be equipped to handle the speed, growth and spread of fake news on social media. The killings brought out the plight of nomadic tribes who have been victims of violence and the neglect of Adivasi settlements. This correspondent spoke to Rainpada residents, the police and people working with the Adivasi communities to understand an issue that appears to have few answers.
the five men belonging to the Nath Gosavi community who were lynched at Rainpada village, 75 kilometres from Dhule in Maharashtra.