The incident took place in Pathinettan Kudi, near Melur. A group of locals saw a woman standing alone near children and began attacking her on suspicion of being a child abductor.
Speaking to TNM, a police officer who was part of the rescue team said, “The woman is from Trichy. She was not there to kidnap. She’s been taking psychiatric treatment at a home nearby. She herself has a four-year-old son. She came out in the morning to go somewhere and she was alone momentarily, waiting for her family member to join. The people around there saw her near some children. They began attacking her because she looked north Indian. They suspected that she was a man dressed up as a woman to kidnap children. As soon as we got information, we went and rescued her. When her parents saw the news, they came and showed their ID cards to prove they are from here.”
Investigations revealed that the residents of the area had believed in WhatsApp messages doing the rounds about child abductors.
The officer said, “The residents seem to have believed in WhatsApp rumors doing the rounds that men dressed as women are out to kidnap children. We have been announcing in newspapers not to believe these rumors.”
The attack comes less than two weeks after two migrant workers from Bihar were thrashed in Chennai by a mob who suspected them to be child kidnappers.
The state police have been conducting awareness campaigns across the state to contain the spread of fake messages.
Speaking to TNM earlier, Deputy Commissioner of Chennai, Aravindhan had said, “Because of the use of smartphones, information reach is faster, though it is not accurate. That’s one reason why we are conducting awareness campaigns regularly and telling them to trust mainstream channels. If they have any doubt, we ask them to contact the police. As a department, our request to the citizens is they should not take law in their own hands. Even if they find a suspect, they have to apprehend and hand them over to the police department.”