Don't wink, shed tears, this selfie has shamed us
I am agitated. I am outraged. I am restless. I am tearful. I am sorry, too.
Not because some parochial guys berated me for those "unpatriotic and politically incorrect" words in my last column. I stand by those words.
Yes, I said I live in the perennial fear of getting lynched by religious vigilantes in my home country.
Yes, I said that in India, after eight in the night I secure myself behind sealed doors, fearing stray humans.
Yes, I said groping is so rampant in India, we may have to build a Great Wall of China between the male and female areas in public buses.
Yes, I said grow up, India. Learn a lesson from some of the most impoverished nations in the world.
Yes, I said in India culture plays a divisive role, driving wedges between communities.
Yes, I said we are a land of hypocrites. We are a bloody mess of all those bad things I have listed out. That's what newspapers tell me.
Today I am unable to write. My eyes are foggy as I am fighting tears. I have no fingers as they are locked in a fist of anger. I am lost for words as my tongue is frozen in the silence of shame. We killed a poor, hungry youth for stealing, guess what, some food. And guess where? In an enlightened state like Kerala, with the most literate tag which the left liberals brag about every other day.
The 27-year-old Adivasi youth, A Madhu, a resident of Kadukumanna tribal hamlet in Attappady, was beaten to death by a mob on Thursday. The crime: He resembled the image of a suspected thief in the CCTV footage of food pilferage from neighbourhood shops. He was mentally challenged and mostly stayed in the forest, keeping no contact with his family.
What followed was more shocking and sickening than the actual lynching. In a creepy act symptomatic of a new social order emerging in India, some members of the mob posted selfies and videos of the frail, hapless youth tied up with his own lungi, his shirt torn. A young man who shot the selfie can be seen sporting a smirk on his face.
The selfies and videos of the inexplicable violence have sparked public outrage with a deluge of social media memes showing a black man tied to the map of Kerala. The sadism and sarcasm bleeding from these images would leave a permanent blot on India's sociopolitical consciousness. The hungry need to be fed. The homeless need to be sheltered. The sick need to be treated. The distressed need to be comforted. If the governments we elect to power are unable to carry out any of these, it's the duty of the people to rise to the occasion and take care of fellow human beings. No religion teaches us to kill all those who starve if we can't feed them.
Much political blood boiled some time ago when a study by Chittur College, Palakkad, showed the Human Development Indices of the impoverished Attappady and African countries like Somalia and Ethiopia were almost the same. The gender-related development Index of the tribal groups in Attappady is the lowest among all states and is comparable to African countries like Rwanda and Benin, ranked 178 and 181 by the UNDP. Despite claims of developmental packages, death still stalks Attappady with hundreds of children succumbing to malnutrition and diseases. Attappady now is nothing less than a killing field. According to the 2011 census, its tribal population has plunged from 90.26 per cent in 1951 to a bare 34 per cent of the area's total population. Which means there are only 30,658 tribespeople remaining in the 192 hamlets of Attappady.
Madhu is not just a mad man of Attappady. He is a martyr of political bickering and land grabbing. According to officials, Attappady was once food surplus, including ragi, an integral part of the tribal life. Years of neglect has turned the tribal belt into a graveyard. If a hungry, forlorn youth was lynched for stealing some food, who will punish settlers from other parts of the state who have stolen vast swathes of land from his community? We are awaiting the selfies and videos from the day of reckoning. Till then let's all hang our heads in shame. Till then let's not be intellectually pretentious. Till then let's not talk about Priya Varrier and her viral winks. Till then I am not sorry for my "unpatriotic" words. No way! History will absolve me.