news Monday, June 22, 2015 - 05:30
His spirit is perhaps the only thing that Jayakumar R Pillai’s attackers could not break.   For the last 16 days, Pillai has lain in a hospital bed in Ernakulam district of Kerala, his hands and legs broken, and with multiple wounds all over his body. These injuries, and an eerie, terrified silence in the village, is what he feels he “got” for being unselfish and trying to break the stranglehold that the drug mafia has over his district.   Thirty-five-year-old Pillai returned to his village Panayannarkavu in Allapuzha district in 2013, after working in Dubai for 10 years.  In January 2014, he set up a gymnasium in Kayamkulam, a nearby town, and noticed school students from poor families zooming around the town on luxury bikes and owning expensive smartphones. Some of them came to his gym.   “Slowly I established a rapport with them, and they began to reveal their connections with the drug mafia. They all were drug peddlers,” he said. It was then Pillai formed a 45-member committee with his friend Preetha and began to work with the police to put an end to the menace.   Preetha owns a grocery shop in the same building where Pillai’s gymnasium is located. In March, The News Minute had reported that people affiliated with the drug trade had allegedly burned her shop, which was her only source of income.   They met the Home Minister, senior police officials and the local police, and gave the police information which helped to identify and apprehend the persons involved in drug trade.   Police formed a special squad and arrested many people, but no action was taken against the real kingpin, a powerful goonda in the area.  After the police crackdown, the drug peddlers launched their own offensive, targeting people who opposed them and also those who got out of the trade.   Despite this, neither Pillai nor Preetha backed down.   But in February, Preetha’s shop was destroyed and she now has huge debts, and Pillai was brutally assaulted by seven people on the night of June 6. They hacked at him with swords, and broke both his hands and legs. He has undergone three major surgeries. No one has been arrested so far.   “I told the police that many of the locals saw a boy near my gym watching me since evening that day. There is a CCTV camera in a nearby bank. Police did not check that,” Jayakumar says.   Local people who spoke to The News Minute said everybody was scared of the goonda who led the drug trade in the district, and that he had connections with leaders of all political parties. The person in question reportedly faces 30 criminal cases, including four murder cases. In the past too, the gang has reportedly attacked anyone who opposed them.   “They threaten the family of the victims to dissuade them from pursuing the cases. Nobody dares to speak against him or his gang, I did and now I lost my life,” Jayakumar says from his hospital bed.   Pillai has a four-year-old daughter and two-month old son, a wife and elderly parent. None of them can take the at least two-hour journey to reach the Ernakulam Medical   Trust Hospital where he is recuperating. The only person who comes to see him is a friend.   “They still threaten my family but I don’t care. I will fight till my last breath,” he says, but is worried that the movement against the drug trade will now die. While the attackers could not deter Pillai, they may perhaps have still achieved something. The whole village is terrified after the attack on him, Pillai says, adding that no youngster will come forward anymore.   He also points out that he was able to bear the hospital bills of Rs 3.5 lakh as he was financially sound. “But think about a person without money. How will someone speak out now?” he says. Doctors say he will need 18 months bed rest to make a full recovery.   There hasn’t been a word of protest or condemnation over the attack. “A lot of people including family advised me not to get involved, but I could not see these unlawful activities happening right in before my eyes. This is what I got for not being selfish,” Jayakumar says.

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