Darker days

Kerala might be god's own country, but sizeable sections of its population are considered the children of a lesser god. This was particularly true in the case of Madhu Chindaki, the adivasi youth who was lynched by a violent mob in Attappadi for allegedly stealing a few food items. Sixteen people have been arrested; however, even though the law shall take its own course, the implications of the macabre nature of Chindaki's death must be considered. It is bad enough that he was physically attacked, and could not survive his injuries. Making matters worse is the fact that his attackers had the impunity to take photographs of themselves with their victim and circulate them on social media. In one photograph, a dishevelled Chindaki with his arms tied up is visible in the background, while one of his alleged attackers takes the selfie. This brazen attitude was also reflected in the murder of a migrant worker in Rajasthan; his killing, too, was filmed by an associate of the murderer and put online.

Kerala, of course, is not alone in its shameful treatment of underprivileged populations. What is frightening is the increasing unabashedness with which attacks against - and murders of - members of marginalized communities are being carried out all over the country. It is clear that the culprits in each of these cases have stopped fearing punishment, given that their actions seem to enjoy the tacit approval of the State. (The murderers of the dairy farmer, Pehlu Khan, were allowed to go scot-free, even though they were identified by the police from the video footage of the lynching.) The same sense of brazenness must have been present in the mob in Kerala. In this case, marginalization of the victim worked on two levels. Not only was he a member of the adivasi community - which now forms only 34 per cent of the population of Attappadi after having been pushed out of its own forest land - but he was also grappling with mental health problems. It is reasonable to assume that the unhealthy attitude Indians harbour towards the country's mentally ill population played a major part in Chindaki's murder, along with the prejudices of caste and class. His killing - as well as those of others before him - contributes directly to the establishment of a society in which the norms are set according to a distinctly majoritarian agenda. Civil society must zealously resist the normalization of such criminal behaviour.


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