On Monday news of another mob lynching shook Kerala - this time a migrant worker was killed on the suspicion of stealing a hen. This is the seventh such case to be reported from the state since the beginning of this year.
This points to a worrying trend in the state, and sociologists, psychiatrists and rights groups say they have reason to believe that only a specific section of people of people are being targeted - Dalits, migrant workers, transgender people and women.
âOnly those who belong to the above-mentioned list or those who are from the lower strata of society are victimised by mobs in this âso-calledâ progressive and 100%-literate state. Even in the latest case, it was a migrant worker who was beaten to death on allegations of âstealingâ a hen,â Mini Mohan, a sociologist in Kerala, told TNM.
According to a senior police official in Kollam, the 32-year-old victim, Manik Roy from West Bengal, was beaten up by 62-year-old Sasidhara Kurup and 27-year-old Asif after they accused him of stealing a hen.
The victim had worked as a mason in Panayancheri for the past three years. An official told TNM that on June 24, Roy had bought a chicken and was going home, when Kurup and Asif confronted him, accusing him of stealing the bird.
âThe duo beat him up and Roy was bleeding from the nose. He was taken to a local hospital, and was discharged the next day. He was supposed to go for a review on June 30, but he didnât go. However, earlier this month he suffered from severe headaches. He then went to the local hospital again, this time as an outpatient. But since his condition worsened, he was taken to a private hospital and was referred from there to Anchal Mission Hospital where he was declared brought dead,â the Kollam Rural Police Chief B Asokan told TNM.
âThe post-mortem report has revealed that Roy died due to injuries he had suffered on head. And based on that we have arrested Kurup and Asif. Kurup was produced in court and has been remanded,â Asokan said, adding that an FIR under IPC Section 302 (punishment for murder) has been registered in the case.
A resident in the area, who requested anonymity, said that Roy was beaten very badly that day and the men left him alone only when the man who sold him the chicken came and told them that the victim was innocent.
According to Mini Mohan, there were allegations of a hen going âmissingâ in the area, which had prompted the mob to blame the migrant worker.
âIt has now become the norm in Kerala to blame migrant workers or tribals or transgender people or Dalits if something goes missing in any locality,â said Mini, adding that this mob mentality has swept into Kerala in a shameful way.
Royâs is the seventh case recorded since January this year.
On January 28, a pregnant woman was assaulted by a mob, which included a CPI(M) leader. She was rushed to a hospital and was placed in critical care, but lost her child.
On January 30, a woman with intellectual disabilities was beaten up by a mob for creating ânuisanceâ in Kochi, the commercial hub of Kerala.
On February 5, a trans woman was beaten up and stripped by a mob in the suburbs of Thiruvananthapuram, after a mob alleged that she was a child lifter.
Similarly, on February 8, four people were arrested on charges of brutally assaulting a migrant labour after accusing him of being part of a kidnapping network that targeted young children in Kannur.
On February 22, a tribal man was beaten to death by a mob in Wayanad, who alleged he had stolen food. Those who assaulted him also took a selfie with him and âproudlyâ shared it on their Facebook pages.
And on June 28, three men were brutally assaulted for transporting cows by two Rashtriya Swayamsevak men in Kollam.
According to Dr Jayaprakash, a psychiatrist from Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, the socially minor groups are always targeted by the majority.
âIn mobocracy, there are mainly two kinds of people. One, who already has a criminal bent of mind and leads the attack, and the other, who joins the âleadersâ,â he said.
âItâs not just in Kerala, we see across India how only the minority are attacked. It is an attitude the majority has developed - that they are the only ones to maintain their idea of âlaw and orderâ,â Dr Jayaprakash added.
Meanwhile, Ajaykumar VB, a Dalit rights activist, said that itâs not new that minority groups and the socially marginalised are being victimised.
âItâs there in the history of Kerala for all to see. Dalits and those belonging to the lower strata of society have never been given the chance to raise their voice and tell the truth. Even if they do, those belonging to the so-called upper castes and classes will not believe them, because they think itâs their job to maintain law and order. So they wonât listen,â Ajaykumar said.
Rafeek Ravuther, Director of the Centre for Indian Migrant Studies, said it is especially sad to hear such cases happening in Kerala.
âWhen the state is trying its best to protect and help migrant workers in Kerala, the people are acting this way. Proper, on-the-ground awareness programmes should be conducted immediately to stop the repetition of such untoward incidents,â said Rafeek, who is actively involved in discussions on preparing a Global Compact for Migrants at the UN level said.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of India condemned the lynching incidents and recommended the Parliament enact a separate law to punish such offenders.
âThe horrendous acts of mobocracy cannot be permitted to inundate the law of the land. Earnest action and concrete steps have to be taken to protect the citizens from the recurrent pattern of violence which cannot be allowed to become âthe new normalâ,â the bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said.
The Supreme Court observed that it is the duty of the state to ensure that the machinery of law and order functions efficiently and effectively in maintaining peace, so as to preserve our quintessentially secular ethos and the pluralistic social fabric in a democratic set-up governed by rule of law.
âIn times of chaos and anarchy, the state has to act positively and responsibly to safeguard and secure the constitutional promises to its citizens,â the court added.