At least three people have been killed and nine others injured in mob violence across southern India, in what police are describing as a wave of social media-inspired lynchings.
Nightly patrols of villagers have started beating up outsiders, according to police, after rumours circulated on WhatsApp and on social media that there were gangs of thieves and child-kidnappers roaming the region.
The police chiefs of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, Indias 12th and 10th most populous states respectively, both held news conferences urging members of the public not to believe the rumours.
They said there was no indication that such gangs actually existed.
The most high profile incident was the death of a 33-year-old auto-rickshaw driver, named by The Hindu as Nimmala Balakrishna, in the Telangana village of Jiyapalli on Wednesday night.
Police officer E Ramchandra Reddy told the Associated Press the villagers had suspected Mr Balakrishna to be a child abductor.
The driver had been drinking at his brothers home in Jiyapalli and was preparing to leave for his nearby hometown when he was descended upon by a gang of men, police said.
The men beat him with sticks before driving him to the village centre and fleeing. Another group of villages also attacked him there, The Hindu reported. Mr Balakrishna died as his brothers family, alerted to the attack, drove him to a hospital.
Six men have now been arrested and another 12 are reportedly wanted in connection with the killing, but have fled.
In Andhra Pradesh, a woman visiting from the eastern state of Bihar was thrashed by a mob at a railroad station, after she was suspected of seeking to abduct children, state police chief M Malakondaiah said. She did not know the local Telugu language, creating a misunderstanding with local villagers.
And in Bengaluru (formerly known as Bangalore), the capital of neighbouring Karnataka state, police arrested nine people for tying a person to a tree and beating him on Tuesday, senior police officer T Suneel Kumar said. He said there had been no incidents of gangs abducting children, despite video messages circulating on social media.
Telangana state police chief M Mahender Reddy urged members of the public to have faith in the authorities rather than taking the law into your hands, repeating the mantra: Police is with you, you are safe.
Mr Malakondaiah, the Andhra Pradesh police chief, said stringent action would be taken against those guilty of mob violence. These are rumours that gangs of child kidnappers are moving in the state, dont believe them. Dont beat up people.