The 34-year-old from Madurai, who has reportedly suffered 70% burns, posted two videos after the attempt and alleged that police harassment had led him to take this step.

People trying to help man who set himself ablaze in Tamil NaduSpecial Arrangement
news Police Thursday, January 20, 2022 - 16:37

In a shocking incident in Tamil Nadu, a 34-year-old man set himself ablaze on Tuesday, January 18, alleging police harassment. The incident took place late on Tuesday night in Madurai, when Easwaran doused himself with petrol and set himself on fire in front of a statue of Dr Ambedkar, located near Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU) College. He has reportedly suffered 70% burns and is being treated at the Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH), according to TNIE.

A resident of Indira Nagar of BB Kulam, Easwaran is a construction worker. He was rescued after he set himself on fire, and he recorded two videos where he alleged that the Tallakulam police had beaten and threatened him and that’s what had led him to take this step. In one video, Easwaran is heard saying that he was at a tea shop with friends when a person, allegedly a police official, started questioning him about illegally selling liquor and checked his bike and home but found nothing. “He (police official) then brought four bottles of alcohol from somewhere and said that I was selling liquor. He also asked me to come to the station and threatened me. He was beating me throughout. I did not know what to do. When I asked why he was beating me, he beat me again. So I decided to die because of the torture. He later took my bike and my mother's mobile phone. When I questioned him, he asked me to come to the station. So I decided to do this,” he alleged in the video.

In the other video, he is heard saying that his whole body is burnt, and alleged that he was beaten by four police officers and his jaw was broken in the process. He identified two of the officers by name in the video. “I ran away as they beat me. My family and I are being tortured for something I did not do,” he further added in the video.

Easwaran’s older sister, Sivagami (39), told TNM that on January 18, he was questioned and searched by a policeman when he was sitting in a tea shop on their street. “As nothing was found, Easwaran left the shop and came to the house, and the police followed him here and searched the house. Five policemen came, but four of them searched the house, one was in uniform,” she said, and identified four of them as Ranjith, Adhimugundha Kannan, Senthil Kumar and Duraimurugan, and stated that Adhimugundha Kannan is a Sub-Inspector at Tallakulam police station. Easwaran’s father was at home when the search began and he called his daughter and wife, who were out, and told them to come back home

“Easwaran asked the police why they were searching the house, and they beat him up for questioning them. They later went to a liquor shop near our house, and found bottles under a car parked there. They brought four bottles and asked him why it was there, to which he said he did not know as it was found on the street. They beat him up further, and he started bleeding,” she said.

As Easwaran refused to go to the police station, the policemen confiscated his two-wheeler and his mother’s phone and allegedly said that “they knew how to bring him to the station”. Soon after, Easwaran left the house without saying anything. His mother went to the Tallakulam police station at around 9.45 pm, where she was made to wait.

Meanwhile, Easwaran had reportedly set himself ablaze a little before 10 pm, following which he was rescued by police officers and a couple of bystanders and was taken to the GRH. “The hospital had been trying to contact my mother, but nobody picked the call as the phone was with the police,” said Sivagami. “At 10.10 pm, the police handed over the mobile phone and bike to my mother, made her sign on a blank paper and asked her to leave. My father and I went to pick her up. They must have known what Easwaran had done, but we were not informed,” alleged Sivagami.

At 1.30 am, the family received a call from the police station and were told that Easwaran had self-immolated and was under treatment at the hospital.

“He has sustained 70% burn injuries and the doctors say that he might not survive,” she added. When asked why he chose to set himself on fire in front of a Dr Ambedkar statue, Sivagami alleged that it might have been because the police officials questioned his caste while beating him.

Sivagami further said that they are planning to seek the help of a lawyer as police officials from the commissioner’s office had come to meet the family at the hospital and allegedly asked them to get Easwaran’s statement and sign some papers. The family said that Easwaran had tried to kill himself only out of fear caused by police harassment and they asked that action be taken against the concerned police personnel.

When TNM contacted Madurai Police Commissioner, Prem Anand Sinha, he said that there were three earlier cases registered against Easwaran –  petty cases, for creating nuisance in the area, selling liquor illegally, all within the Tallakulam limit. “The police got information and a team under an SI went to investigate and found some bottles. They also picked his associate up. He (Easwaran) later went and self-immolated. An inquiry is being conducted by a DSP-level officer and preliminary inquiries suggest there is no form or substance here,” he said.

Police sources at Tallakulam police station told TNM that there was only one old ‘petty case’ against Easwaran, which goes back to 2018 or 2019. “His associate Saravanakumar was arrested. Both of them were involved in the loose selling of liquor, but he ran away, so we arrested this guy and seized properties,” they said.

If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues or feeling suicidal, please provide help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide prevention organisations that can offer emotional support to individuals and families.

Tamil Nadu

State health department's suicide helpline: 104

Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050

Andhra Pradesh

Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930

Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584

Karnataka

Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222

Kerala

Maithri: 0484 2540530

Chaithram: 0484 2361161

Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.

Telangana

State government's suicide prevention (tollfree): 104

Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200

SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682 (between 9 am and 7 pm)

Aasara offers support to individuals and families during an emotional crisis, for those dealing with mental health issues and suicidal ideation, and to those undergoing trauma after the suicide of a loved one.

24x7 Helpline: 9820466726

Click here for working helplines across India.

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