Rainpada, India, used to be a sleepy, close-knit community.
Now it’s almost a ghost town.
A few months ago the locals, who are all active users of WhatsApp, began to hear stories about strangers coming into tribal hamlets like Rainpada and kidnapping children.
According to Buzzfeed News, the rumours instantly created an atmosphere of fear and an intolerance of outsiders.
Then on July 1, 2018, five men from the Nathpandhi Davri Gosavi community — a nomadic group — tried to pass through the village.
They were set upon by the locals, who, according to the Hindustan Times, stoned the men, and thrashed them with sticks and chappals, before lynching them in the village council building.
The brutal murders left behind a 6-foot puddle of blood.
Most of the young men involved fled the village, while the others were rounded up and arrested by the local police force.
“Our men have left their homes since Sunday and there is no contact with them since. Only the women and a few elderly people are left here now,” Dagubai Gaikwad, 72, told the Hindustan Times.
Without the younger, stronger members of the community, many of the older villagers are struggling to leave their homes. As First Post reports, they don’t have access to food or even clean drinking water.
The local school is eerily quiet. Animals roam freely around the village.
The 28 men accused of the crime, who are now awaiting trial, all admit to participating in the attack.
As Buzzfeed News reports, they don’t regret their actions, because they thought they were protecting their village.
“Our clients’ position is that they genuinely thought that the five people were child kidnappers because they had been seeing this kind of information on WhatsApp for months,” Akshay Sagar and Manoj Khairnar, the accused lawyers told the publication.