Close to two weeks after Issakimuthu, a daily wage labourer set himself and his family on fire in front of the Tirunelveli Collectorate, the District Collector has finally broken his silence. Sandeep Nanduri IAS took to social media on Sunday to refute allegations of inaction against him in the immolation case that shook the state in October, and resulted in the death of four members of the same family.
The Collector who has maintained a stoic silence on the matter so far, elaborated on seven points in a Facebook post and asserted that the blame for the family's death cannot fall upon him. He claims that the time has come to 'clearly state some facts' to dismiss theories and numbers 'floating around' about the incident.
He starts by repeating arguments made by the police following the deaths about the family not being available for enquiry and the fact that they too had been lending money to others in their locality. Following these revelations, he goes on to question the real motive behind their suicide and insinuates that Isakkimuthu and his wife Subbulakshmi may not really be 'victims'.
"The lady who is now blamed for this incident has attempted suicide a month back by consuming rat poison. She has already registered a police complaint against the couple for non-repayment of loans and again during the enquiry they didn't turn up," says the post. The Collector then asks, "Why did the couple along with kids commit suicide? Could be due to mounting debt and pressure to repay or was it a threat that misfired? Or someone misguided them that such a threat to commit suicide will help in clearing their debts? Is it due to some other reasons?"
Nanduri then reiterates that the district administration and police cannot be blamed based on just the claim that multiple petitions were filed. The Collector writes that all the petitions he received were passed on to the concerned department HODs and that there was a written communication calling for an enquiry.
Also commenting on the arrest of cartoonist Bala, he alleged that the illustration by the artist was defamatory and obscene.
"I won't deny that I myself enjoyed many of the cartoons. But there is a limit for creativity and freedom of expression. One can't levy baseless allegations of corruption and publish defamatory and obscene cartoons in the name of freedom," he argues.
It is only at the very end of these list of arguments that collector admits that he feels 'horrible' about the incident at the Collectorate. But a clear warning is immediately given, "I only joined this service to serve with pride. I won't tolerate false accusations and baseless allegations, especially when my conscience is clear."