Mob overturned the auto and began assaulting the women and videographing the act. Inset: Shanti Marwadi

Fake viral videos that peddle fear by claiming an out-ofstate gang is stealing children claimed a life in Ahmedabad. A 40-year-old woman was beaten to death by a mob who mistook her and her relatives for child-lifters on Tuesday afternoon.

Police identified the deceased as Shanti Marwadi of Korta village in Pali district of Rajasthan. She belongs to Navnath community, a nomadic tribe that moves across cities and towns, seeking alms, singing bhajans and selling bead necklaces to earn a living. Thirty-three people of the tribe, including seven women, had moved to the city 15 days ago, living in makeshift houses near Bhadreshwar in Sardarnagar area.

Four of them — Shanti, her brother-in-law’s wife Anshi (35) and two sisters-in-law Lila (50) and Aasu (40) — were seeking alms near a chawl in Juna Vadaj around 2 pm when a couple of men approached them. Aasu told Mirror, “They seemed drunk and demanded money from us. When we refused, they accused us of being child-lifters and snatched our bag containing rice and flour. We fled and climbed into an auto, but the men followed us on motorcycles.

They intercepted our rickshaw and began shouting that we were child kidnappers. Soon, a crowd of 30-40 people gathered around. They overturned the rickshaw and began assaulting us.” Several people videographed the act and shared them on social media, too. The videos show the mob hitting the women with plastic bottles. Some men were videographed trying to drag the women out of the auto, failing which they slapped and hit the women.

Vadaj police rushed to the spot and resorted to lathicharge to disperse the mob. The four women were rushed to Civil hospital but Shanti was declared dead on arrival.

Anshi said, “When we got into the rickshaw, men on 5-6 motorcycles surrounded the vehicle and began raining blows. They were stinking of liquor. They called us child kidnappers and soon an angry mob gathered around, baying for our blood.”

Lila said, “The crowd overturned our rickshaw and the driver ran away. We kept pleading with everyone that we are not child lifters. We promised to go with them to the police station but no one paid any heed to us. We told them that we were married and had children of our own. But they kept up the assault. Shanti hit her head on a rod in the rickshaw.”

A case has been registered against unknown persons under IPC section 302 (murder), said Inspector (Vadaj) J ARathwa.

Police Commissioner A K Singh said, “No one has the right to take law in their hands. We will not spare those involved in the attack. I request people not to trust social media rumours about presence of child lifting gangs. In case of suspicion, contact the police control room, or PCR vans and do not take law in your hands.”

‘Call control room, do not take law in hand’

The Ahmedabad police has issued an advisory asking people to refrain from taking law in their hands and inform the police control room about suspicions of child-lifting gangs following a death of a woman in the city. Messages alerting people of child-lifting gangs on prowl have become viral in Gujarat for the past several days. Police clarified that they have no intelligence about presence of any child kidnapping gangs and they are fully alert to the challenge. The police have decided to take strict action against people spreading such provocative and fake messages on social media.

Woman beggar lynched by mob on suspicion of being a child-lifter