Google engineer beaten to death over WhatsApp rumors in Karnataka
In yet another disturbing case of lynching, a Google engineer was assaulted to death in Bidar of Karnataka on suspicion of him being a 'child-lifter.' His three companions, including a Qatari national, were severely injured. Rumors about them being kidnappers reportedly broke out when locals saw them distributing sweets to kids. Nearly 30 innocent people have died in a year due to such rumors on WhatsApp.
A relative told IE that Google engineer Mohammed Azam Ahmed of Hyderabad was traveling to Bidar to attend a social event, along with Noor Mohammed and Mohammed Salman, both from Hyderabad, and Qatari national Salham Kubaisi. Afterwards, they stopped for tea near a school at Murki village, when they saw some children passing by. Kubaisi had brought chocolates from abroad, which he offered them.
The four tried to escape, but the mob blocked roads
That's when locals raised an alarm. The four tried telling them who they were, but nobody listened. Sensing danger, they sped off in their car, but locals clicked their photos and circulated them. In the next village, residents fell a tree to block their way. Ahmed tried to go around it at high-speed, but he lost control and the car fell into a ditch.
400 people dragged out the men, assaulted them brutally
By then, some 400 people had gathered, reported TNM. They pulled the men out and started beating them mercilessly. By the time police arrived, they were bleeding heavily. It took cops some time to stop the assault. They found out Ahmed had succumbed to his injuries. The three others were immediately rushed to a local hospital before being shifted to Hyderabad.
32 arrested, including those who circulated messages
Police have arrested 32 people, reports say, including WhatsApp administrators who had circulated the messages and many who were part of the mob. Appealing to the government to stop mob lynchings, Akram, brother of Google engineer Ahmed, said, "My brother was the...father of a 2-year-old. He was just a regular guy."
No one knows where the 'child-lifting' messages started
No one knows where these 'child-lifting' messages originated, but they have led to the deaths of at least 20 people in less than two months. In each case, the 'local-versus-outsider' sentiment was on full display, especially in tribal areas like Karbi Anglong and Rainpada. Efforts to counter them have backfired: in Tripura's Kalachhara, a man spreading awareness against rumor-mongering was lynched on similar suspicions.
WhatsApp waging its own battle against fake news
WhatsApp is finally beginning a campaign against fake news. With its new feature, users'd be able to tell which messages are random forwards and which real. It urged users to "check information that seems unbelievable," "look out for messages that look different," "question information that upsets you," and "use other sources" to verify news. WhatsApp had earlier said it was "horrified" over rumor-triggered lynching.Share this timeline