A hawker from Uttar Pradesh was beaten to death by a mob in Tripura on Thursday on suspicions that the three men who had reached the town near state capital Agartala were child-lifters. The social media-fuelled hysteria about gangs out on the streets to kidnap children has claimed many lives across several states.
Jahir Khan died on the spot. His two associates, Gulzar and Khurshid Khan, survived the attack but are battling for their lives. All of them are from Uttar Pradesh.
The incident took place at Murabari in West Tripura district, about 30 km from state capital Agartala.
It is unclear how Murabari residents came to suspect that the three men were child-lifters.
But as word got around, hundreds of people came out on the streets to punish the men they believed were criminals.
Smriti Ranjan Das, a senior police officer, said the hawkers and the driver of their vehicle ran into a small Tripura State Rifles camp. The security personnel fired two rounds in the air and four tear gas shells to disperse the mob but they could not hold back the huge mob.
"However, nearly a thousand agitated people chased them and entered the camp, and lynched one of the hawkers," Mr Das said, according to news agency Press Trust of India.
Some policemen were also injured trying to save the hawkers.
AK Shukla, the state's top police officer, later suspended text message services and internet data services to prevent rumour mongering.
But a few hours later, another mob in South Tripura killed a 33-year-old hired by the state government to spread awareness against rumour mongers in rural areas after an altercation with villagers.
In Tripura, rumours of a child lifting gang involved in organ harvesting were sparked off after an 11-year-old boy was found murdered on Tuesday night. A Class 4 student, Purna Biswas's body was found near his home in western Tripura's Mohanpur locality.