On Thursday evening, A Madhu, a 30-year-old tribal man from Kerala's Attappadi region collapsed and died inside a police jeep as he was being taken to a Government Tribal Specialty Hospital at Kottathara.
Madhu had been handed over to the police by an irate mob that had attacked him, accusing him of theft.
What has shocked Kerala are photographs that emerged on social media, which were reportedly taken just before Madhu was attacked with sticks by the mob.
One of the pictures show a frail man (Madhu) who is tied up using a lungi, his shirt torn. Another man is seen talking to Madhu as they stand against a rock. Unperturbed by whatever is happening, a third young man who has clicked the selfie photograph can be seen smiling at the camera.
A selfie taken just before a man was beaten to death?
In a video that is also circulating on social media, a group of men can be seen hounding Madhu and questioning him. One of them pulls out provisions - from eggs to curry powders - from a bag, accusing Madhu of stealing those items.
Agali police confirmed to TNM that Madhu died soon after he was handed over to the police by the mob, who claim to have "caught" him.
However, despite videographic evidence of the mob surrounding Madhu and questioning him, the police are yet to ascertain whether Madhu was beaten up by the mob.
"Madhu has previously been accused of robbing shops and we were trying to nab him for quite sometime. He has 3 cases registered against him. The locals had got CCTV visuals of Madhu stealing from a shop. A few locals spotted him in the hills, tied him up and brought him to the town. Then they informed us and we reached the spot to take him into custody," Agali CI told TNM.
However, while Madhu was being taken to the police station, he started vomiting.
"We then took him to the hospital. By the time we reached there, he had lost consciousness. The doctors then declared him brought dead," the police said.
Confirming that Madhu was beaten up, Agali DySP however, said that they couldn't yet ascertain whether Madhu died because of it.
"The people in the mob were all locals of Agali, not from outside. But we can't conclude that the death was caused by that. We can confirm the cause of death only after getting the post mortem report. He used to wander around and lived in the forest and caves. During the night he would steal rice from provision stores in the area. There is a theft case against him at Agali police station. On Wednesday, he stole rice from a store at Kalkkanda. On Thursday night, the mob went to the forest and beat him up," Agali DySP T K Subramanian said.
Inquest procedures are over and Madhu's body will be soon be sent for post mortem. Although several reports stated that Madhu was mentally ill, the police couldn't confirm this.
Anger against mob
The photographs and selfie of the mob has created much anger on social media.
Tribal welfare activist Dhanya Raman said that Madhu was mentally ill. In a Facebook post, she demanded that the CM and DGP visit the spot.
In a Facebook post, Manila C Mohan, a journalist with Mathrubhumi weekly says:
"Those who don't have power won't understand the powerless, they won't understand that the powerless have the right to live. They aren't guilty, but they have the silent pleasure of conducting a murder."
മുഖ്യ മന്ത്രിയും ഡി ജി പി യും എത്തണം അട്ടപ്പാടി യിലേക്ക്. കയ്യേറ്റക്കാരനും പോലീസും തമ്മിലുള്ള ഒത്തുകളി നിർത്തണം.കൊന്നത് വെറും ആദിവാസി യെ മാത്രമല്ല. പതിമൂ ന്നാം financial പദ്ധതിയിൽ 148 കോടിയിൽ ഉൾപ്പെട്ട പ്രാക്തന ഗോത്ര വിഭാഗക്കാരൻ. എവിടെ പൈസ?Posted by Dhanya Raman on Thursday, 22 February 2018
Usha Punathil, who used to work at Attappadi Hills Area Development Society too, took to Facebook to express shock and anger over the incident.
"After stealing the land and everything the Adivasis owned, and making legislation for all that, now an Adivasi is beaten to death. He had nowhere to go when he was attacked. An Adivasi is killed accused of stealing food, then how should we who have stolen everything from them be killed?" she asked.
A poor Adivasi tribal man from Attapadi tribal area was tied up and beaten to death...— DKris (@divekrish) February 22, 2018
The selfie they took before killing him... pic.twitter.com/KXvquENy4y
മോഷണകുറ്റം ആരോപിച്ച് ആദിവാസി യുവാവിനെ തല്ലി കൊന്നവൻമാരുടെ സെൽഫി...#Kerala_No.1— Arun SP (@arunsptwt) February 22, 2018
ഉത്തരേന്ത്യയിൽ അല്ലാത്തതിനാൽ കേരളസർക്കാരോ, സാംസ്കാരിക നക്കികളോ പ്രതികരിക്കുമെന്ന് കരുതുന്നില്ല!!
[Image : Dhanya Raman (FB)] pic.twitter.com/GkpEkJSgxE