A mentally challenged middle-aged woman was stripped and beaten to death by an angry mob in India in the latest incident of mob lynching. She was suspected of being a child trafficker.
Police reportedly rescued the woman from the mob, but were too late as 42-year-old Otera Bibi succumbed to her injuries at a hospital.
The incident took place on 27 June in Sekendra village in West Bengal's Murshidabad district. Police have said they were questioning some detained villagers and are yet to make arrests.
The mob attacked the woman when she was spotted entering a house in the village at around 3am local time. Amid widespread rumours of child trafficking gangs from neighbouring states active in the region, the villagers wrongly identified the woman as a child-lifter and began assaulting her.
"The villagers started beating the woman mercilessly. She was trying to say something, but we couldn't understand it," one resident told the Hindustan Times newspaper.
"In fact, her incoherent speech fuelled suspicions that she was a trafficker from Bangladesh. Some youngsters ripped off the woman's clothes and partly tonsured her. Then they tied her to a tractor and beat her for three hours," the person added.
A small police team had reportedly reached the spot while people were pelting stones at the woman, but the mob refused to let them save her. After reinforcements were called and the woman was rescued, she was taken to a nearby hospital where she eventually succumbed to her injuries.
Additional superintendent of police for the region, Angshuman Saha, said that the incident was fuelled by rumours about Bangladeshi child traffickers active in the region. The village is located very close to the neighbouring country and is only separated by a river.
He added that the recent disappearance of a 14-year-old girl, Fultushi Ghosh, from the village on 21 June had sparked fears of child trafficking gangs.
"We will not spare the people who spread these rumours. We will also take action against the villagers who lynched Otera Bibi if her family lodges a complaint," he had said soon after the incident.
He also said that they have detained a few people and were also verifying video footage of the alleged crime.
"We will first verify and then arrest the culprits. Raids are still on. I think there have been past few genuine cases where children have gone missing. These cases may have triggered the rumours, which led to the unfortunate incident," Saha said.