A social media-fuelled instance of vigilante justice has claimed the life of a trans woman and seriously injured three others in Hyderabad, India.

A group of locals, who saw rumours that the women were child traffickers that had been spread on WhatsApp, set upon the women as they were begging, CNN reported.

Deputy commissioner of police in Hyderabad, V. Satyanarayana, said the women “were begging for money from some shopkeepers in Chandrayanagutta at 11pm when some unruly youths started saying they had come to kidnap children.”

Satyanarayana said the attackers numbered around 20, while a crowd of up to 200 more watched and spurred them on.

The Whatsapp messages that let to the attack accused trans women of being behind a plot of kidnap children in the area.

“For the last 15 days in India, especially in the Telugu-speaking states, a lot of rumors on WhatsApp and other social media have been shared about gangs kidnapping children.

“These mischief mongers are intentionally circulating such messages to create panic in the minds of the public,” Satyanarayana said.

The messages included images of dead children originating in Syria as well as of Rohingya children in Myanmar.

Instances of mob justice have been on the rise in India due to similar rumours being circulated on social media.

Hyderabad Police are attempting to combat the circulation of such falsified rumours through their own social media campaigns and workshops.

Police reportedly attempted to intervene to protect the women but the crowd pelting them with objects including rocks.

Mumbai-based queer collective LABIA called the violence “a shameless act of brutal vigilantism against members of a marginalised section of society.”

The attack has led to the arrest of at least 12 people, many of whom are believed to be members of political partyMaharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

India has been making progress in terms of legal recognition and protection for trans people, but incidences of violence remain common.

Gay sex is presently criminalised under Section 377 of India’s Penal Code, though this section’s constitutionality is under review in the country’s Supreme Court and could be struck down as soon as July.

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