Lynching and selfie click shock Kerala

One of the attackers takes a selfie with Madhu in the backdrop. The victim can be seen tied up with his own lungi

Bangalore: A group of over a dozen people tied up a mentally unstable tribal man in a Kerala district after accusing him of theft and beat him up, sending shock waves across the state as some of them later uploaded clips of the fatal assault on Facebook.

Madhu, 27, still alive when the police arrived, died while being taken to hospital on Thursday.

Police arrested two of the suspects on Friday - K. Hussain, a shopkeeper, and P.P. Kareem - and said eight others had been identified with the help of a video and pictures they had posted on Facebook bragging about nabbing a "shoplifter".

One of the suspects had even shot a selfie with the frail young victim in the background.

Social media exploded with anger, calling the act an instance of extreme depravity.

"What kind of culture is this?" said Malayalam actor and social activist Joy Mathew. "What's the use of 100 per cent literacy? It's simply audacious to brutally assault someone and then post the video on social media."

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said such incidents "come as blotches on the socio-cultural progress we made".

The CPM-led state government has ordered a magisterial probe by a sitting judge.

State police chief Loknath Behera promised strict action and arrest of all the culprits. "It was an unfortunate incident," he said. "I have assigned Thrissur IG (inspector-general) to lead the investigations."

Madhu, who lived inside the Attappadi forest range in Palakkad district, was assaulted by 15 men, including local shopkeepers and drivers, on the suspicion of stealing provisions from a grocery before being handed over to police on Thursday afternoon.

A video clip shows a helpless Madhu, wearing a muddied shirt, his hands tied with his own lungi. He looks haggard, his rib cage clearly visible in the visuals.

His mother Malli told reporters Madhu had left home about nine months ago and had been living inside the forest on his own. "He would have somehow managed to live in the forest. Why did they have to kill him?" she wept, denying her son was a thief.

A badly assaulted Madhu vomited in the police van while being taken away. The police diverted the vehicle to the nearby Government Tribal Specialty Hospital, but he died before receiving medical care. Before he died, Madhu told the police six men had picked him up from the forest before Thursday noon and assaulted him.

Angry tribal people marched to the hospital where Madhu's body had been kept and demanded immediate arrest of all the culprits. They allowed his body to be taken to nearby Thrissur for the post mortem only after the authorities assured them that all the suspects would be arrested soon.

M.B. Rajesh, CPM Lok Sabha MP from Palakkad, called for strict action. "We must not allow Kerala to be like north India," he said.


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