The grieving mother of the software engineer, who died in an attack by angered mob fuelled by child-lifting rumours in Karnataka’s Bidar, demanded to know if her son Mohammad Azam (32) had crossed the India-Pakistan border as she referred to his brutal lynching.

Stating that the police had failed to protect her son, she told reporters, “Did our son cross the India-Pakistan border? The police did not use tear gas, they didn’t fire warning shots either.”

Azam’s father has demanded that the government take action to stop the spread of fake stories on social media.

Talking to trey reporters, he said, “The villagers were shown identity cards but they didn’t listen. He was a software engineer and people beat him to death trusting a rumor. I request the government to take strict action against those who killed him.”

Azam and three of his friends were mistaken to be child-lifters by some villagers, who beat them up with rods and sticks.

The incident occurred on Friday. According to officials, about 30 people have been arrested in this connection, including the administrator (admin) of a WhatsApp group that spread rumours about child-lifting gangs and galvanised the mob, besides the person who shot the pictures of the attack and circulated it.

Azam, along with his three friends, had come to visit their friend Mohammed Bashir Afroz at Handikera village in Bidar. While on their way back to Hyderabad they stopped near a hamlet, probably with an intention to take pictures. On noticing some children, they offered some chocolates to them.

Locals mistook them for child-lifters and started attacking them. By then their pictures got circulated on a WhatsApp group, resulting in more people gathering.

Also, the car that the group was travelling in was without a number plate, fuelling their suspicion.

Though they managed to escape from the spot, they were caught near Murki village, as the mob had alerted their acquaintances there. The group was beaten with stones and sticks.

Though police reached the spot on receiving information, they were outnumbered, and a couple of police constables were reportedly injured in the melee.

Police managed to bring the situation under control and shifted them to a hospital, but Azam died on the way. The others were shifted to a hospital in Hyderabad.

There has been a string of attacks and lynching incidents in the country fuelled by rumours on child-lifting gangs, prompting the government to ask social media operators such as WhatsApp to clamp down on spread of such messages.

On July 12, at Madurai in Tamil Nadu, a young woman was thrashed by locals on suspicion of being a child-lifter before police rescued her.

Five people were recently killed in North Maharashtra’s Dhule district over child-lifting rumours on social media.

(With agency inputs)