July 02, 2018

India: Quick action against rumour mongers and fast prosecution of culprits in cases of lynchings . . - Editorial, The Times of India

The Times of India

Child-lifting rumours: Social media is exposing existing administrative lacunae

July 2, 2018, 12:26 pm IST in TOI Editorials 
Mob attacks over child-lifting rumours continue to spread across the country as five people were lynched in north Maharashtra despite police intervention. The victims were visiting a Dhule village when they were attacked on suspicion of being child lifters. In fact, rumours about child-lifting have been flying thick and fast in the tribal districts of Dhule and Nandurbar in recent days, both through social media and word of mouth. But the rural, tribal setting of these latest lynchings is irrelevant.

For, one person was attacked in Tripura’s Dhalai district on Sunday itself, while two men from Bihar were severely beaten up in Chennai on Saturday night, again over child-lifting rumours. In Tripura, it will be recalled that a person hired by the state government to counter rumours of child-lifting was himself lynched a few days ago. What explains this seeming madness? Social media is definitely playing a part here. True, there were child-lifting rumours even before smartphones and platforms like WhatsApp became ubiquitous. But these have greatly extended the reach and speed of rumours.
And while the authorities should take all necessary measures to counter these false stories circulating on social media, the reality is that administrative deficiencies are to blame for these lynchings in the first place. Social media rumours are only exposing the chinks in our law and order mechanism. For, had there been adequate and better policing, quick action against rumour mongers and fast prosecution of culprits in cases of lynchings, social media rumours wouldn’t have been able to create such a frenzy. The bottom line is law and order in this country does not pose enough of a deterrent. And this encourages vigilantism. It is these systemic administrative deficiencies that need to be addressed.