Migrant labourer lynched in Kerala was a budding rap musician

The body of Asok Das, who had a hidden life as rapper MC MuNNu, currently lies at a government hospital mortuary in Muvattupuzha because his relatives don’t have the financial means to come to Kerala.
Asok Das
Asok Das
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Since April 5, the body of migrant labourer Asok Das has been lying at the general hospital mortuary at Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam even as his relatives in Arunachal Pradesh are knocking on all doors to dispose of a property so that they can raise enough money to come down to Kerala. Asok, who was employed as a cook in the mofussil town, was tied to a pole and lynched by a mob at Valakam village.

The 24-year-old turned out to be a Hindi rapper who called himself MC MuNNu and ran a YouTube channel with many videos and shorts made with limited resources but showing promise because of his mastery over content, flow, and delivery. The last video was uploaded on March 25 – a track called ‘Lost of time’ (sic) – which has an old school beat and features him wearing a red tee and goggles and philosophising about time that would never come back. The video credits a recording studio in Kochi called Sarangi and an agency called Bison Media, which helped him with the shoot in the port city’s waterfront.

The Muvattupuzha police have since then arrested 10 persons in connection with Asok’s murder. They have been identified as Vijeesh, Aneesh, Sathyan, Suraj, Keshav, Elias K Paul, Amal, Athul Krishna, Emil, and Sanal, all residents of Valakam. Police have charged them under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code after a preliminary investigation. Many residents whom TNM spoke to said no one harmed Asok and all those who have been arrested are innocent.

Police said Asok Das came to Kerala two to three years ago and worked as a cook in restaurants in Muvattupuzha. He used to live in a rented house. The owner of the restaurant where Asok worked told TNM, on condition of anonymity, that he was fired from the job a month before his death. “He came as a chef, but he was not a good cook. He worked here for two weeks. But he was quite interested in music… that I know,” he said.

On April 4, the day on which he was tragically killed, Asok visited a house in Valakam where his female friend, a former co-worker, stayed with another woman. He was allegedly in an inebriated condition, created a ruckus, and cut himself after smashing a showcase window. He was apprehended by residents when he allegedly jumped a wall to escape and landed inside another residential compound.

The wall, which Asok Das allegedly scaled
The wall, which Asok Das allegedly scaled

Residents deny role in murder

TNM met with several residents of Valakam to understand the circumstances that led to Asok’s death but many refused to talk to the media, alleging that the incident was being hyped and their version was not being reported. “How can the media only cite the police while reporting the news? The media should also give our version,” said a man who lives in the house opposite to the spot where Asok was tied up.

According to the residents, some people reached the house where Asok created the ruckus to enquire about what happened. He tried to run away when confronted and was caught after he jumped a high compound wall.

“It was around 9.30 in the night. He scaled our wall, which is higher than our building’s parapet, and landed in our courtyard. His hand was bleeding. My son and his friends noticed this and questioned him. He said it happened in the morning. But he was still bleeding, so they asked again for clarification. But his answers were contradictory,” said a woman who lives in the house into which Asok jumped. She said that her son and friends said they would call the police, after which he would be taken to the hospital.

“When he heard about the police, he tried to escape. So they tied him up. By that time neighbours came and the police were informed,” said the woman who did not want to reveal her identity. Her son is among those who have been arrested in the case.

The pole to which Asok Das was tied up
The pole to which Asok Das was tied up

What the police say

Investigators said Asok Das injured his hand while he was at the house of his female friend, where he created the ruckus. Police said he hurt himself over some personal issues and that his female friend has given a statement in this regard. They added that residents arrived at the house hearing the commotion and questioned Asok. That was when he tried to run and scaled a nearby compound wall.

Police suspect that he was beaten up by local residents who assembled at the spot. The statement given by his female friend to the police also corroborated this. TNM met the Muvattupuzha police, who said that the locals also informed them that he was beaten up by the residents.

Police initially took Asok to the Muvattupuzha Government Hospital. But given his condition, doctors suggested shifting him to Kolenchery Medical College, which has better facilities. He died at the medical college at 12.30 am on April 5.

As per the post-mortem report, Asok had injuries on his head and in the lungs. “I enquired with the doctor about the injuries on his hand. But the doctors said they were minor and couldn’t be the cause of his death. The cause of death was the head injury and lung injury,” said BK Arun, Muvattupuzha Circle Inspector.

Police said some residents had recorded the incident on their phones but later deleted them. Their phones are in police custody now and police are trying to recover the deleted videos.

But the woman whose son was arrested reiterated, “Nobody harmed the man. It is true that a lot of people gathered here after hearing the commotion. But no one had any weapons that could be used to beat someone to death.”

“My son was taken to the police station to give a statement since the man was tied up near our house. But now he is the 10th suspect in the case,” she said, claiming her son was innocent.

Another resident said the neighbourhood was in shock after the 10 people were booked as suspects in the murder. “Everyone is shocked. But we all know they are innocent. Not even the media is giving our version,” the man told TNM.

Relatives unable to reach Kerala to claim body

George Mathew, coordinator of Progressive Workers Organisation, said this was not an isolated incident. “A racial consciousness has been created in our society that the migrant workers are criminals and thieves. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed,” he told TNM.

Two friends of Krishnakanta Das, Asok’s brother-in-law, came to the Muvattupuzha police station to collect the body. But they were turned back by the police because mortal remains can only be handed over to blood relatives.

“I spoke to his family. They don’t have the financial means to come to Kerala now. They don’t know what to do. They have already spent Rs 35,000 towards the airfare of Krishnakanta Das’ friends. Now they are planning to sell a property to raise the money,” George said.

The Ernakulam district labour officer said the body can be airlifted once the relatives get the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the police department. “The body can be airlifted at the expense of the department, but we need an NOC. For that, blood relatives should come and claim the body,” he said.

Asok Das aka MC MuNNu’s rap videos – there are five of them on his channel – had only a few listeners till his death. His last video now has 12,000 views and many comments expressing anguish and remorse over his tragic death. “He was so talented, he was killed by the moral police,” said one of the comments.

Life as a musician and making some money from music was perhaps what MC MuNNu yearned for, the career of a chef scraping the wok over hot burners was at best a side hustle. As an artist and a migrant worker, he had many things to express. In the video Paisa Bolega, he drops this verse: “Paisa Bolega, Munnu bi Bholega. MC MuNNu on the beat.” MuNNu would have continued to speak through his songs if his life had not been tragically cut short.

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