There is widespread outrage over an incident of self-immolation that took place near Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala. A couple hailing from Neyyattinkara area near Thiruvananthapuram committed suicide in front of police and court staff in an attempt to prevent eviction from their land. The couple lived with their children in a hut on this land. The badly burned couple were rushed to a government hospital where they died on Monday.
After the incident, the couple’s 2 orphaned sons decided to perform the last rites of their parents at the same place where they committed self-immolation. Meanwhile, the police also reached out to stop the funeral by telling the children that it was a disputed land.
This horrific incident testifies to the extent to which our system has rotted. We usually refrain from showing videos of suicide and self-immolation on India TV, but I (blurring out some of the most painful parts of the video) decided to show it to our viewers so that they would know how a couple would get that The right to remain alive in the society was taken away, where they were facing the ruthlessness of the system under the patronage of the police, who came by court to order eviction from the ground.
Anyone full of humanity will be shocked to see this painful video in which 2 children are watching their parents pouring kerosene on their bodies and then lighting them on fire. According to eyewitnesses, an ASI pledged to snatch lighters from the father of the children, but during the scuffle the lighter burned from the father and both the spouses were set on fire. None of the policemen or neighbors tried to stop the couple from being overpowered. Both children were stunned and watched their parents scream.
The couple’s elder son Rahul alleged that his parents died due to police. Rahul said, ‘My father never commits suicide. He was only asking the police not to evict him from his land. He often told us that suicide is not an option.
The family of 47-year-old Rajan and his 40-year-old wife Ambili lived in a small hut in Net Thottam area of Neyyattinkara near Thiruvananthapuram with their 2 teenage sons Rahul and Ranjith. Most of the Scheduled Caste people live in this area. One of his neighbors named Vasanta complained to the police claiming that he owned the land. The woman’s lawyer claims that she bought the land in 2006. He had also got an order for eviction from the land from the local Munsif court.
In June this year, the first attempt was made to evict Rajan’s family from the ground. On 22 December, police along with court staff arrived to execute the eviction order. Rajan told the police that he had taken a stay on the order of eviction from the ground. He had also asked to show a copy of the stay order in a few hours, but the police did not listen to him.
As the police reached near his hut to remove it, Rajan sprayed kerosene on himself and his wife Ambili and threatened self-immolation. According to police, the fire accidentally ignited as the ASI tried to snatch lighters from Rajan’s hand.
The local media questioned the matter as to why the police was showing such haste to evict Rajan’s family from the ground even though he knew that the family had got a stay order. He asked why the police did not ask Rajan for a copy of the stay order. Rajan’s neighbor Vasanta, who was the main reason behind the incident of self-immolation, is now in police custody after the media took up the matter prominently.
After the issue was raised by political parties, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that his government would take the ‘responsibility’ of both the orphans and arrange for their education. Where was the government when a poor family living in a hut made of asbestos roof and bricks was pleading for justice? Ambili, the mother of these orphans, had lost her mental balance after years of litigation and harassment by the police.
When the policemen arrived for eviction from the ground, Rajan requested him to give him some time so that he could show a stay order of the court. But the police inspector was adamant and wanted the family to vacate the hut immediately. Rajan stood outside the hut with his wife, sprinkled kerosene and told the police that they would both commit suicide. Despite all this, the police did not back down.
Before dying Rajan was pleading with the police and the court staff ‘Please let us live. If you keep harassing us in this way, then we will have no choice but to die. ‘ These were his last words, and yet the police and the Munsif court staff did not listen to him. His son was recording all this on video, but when he saw his parents surrounded by flames, he held up his camera and ran to save them, but it was too late. Most of the couple’s clothes had already been set on fire and a large part of their body burned badly, and they both lay unconscious.
People poured water on them to save them, but there was no movement in the couple’s body. Both of his children were screaming. His children, searching for traces of life in the unconscious body of their parents, shouted that the police took their lives, but most people stood silently watching. Rajan’s body was 75 per cent while Ambili’s body was 60 per cent scorched.
It is indeed quite shocking that the police did not even wait to see the copy of the stay order obtained from the court by the family and insisted on evicting them immediately from the ground. This reflects gross disregard by the system towards the poor and deprived. The police should take a lesson from this incident that sensitive situations should be dealt with in future. One should act sympathetically while taking eviction action. The Kerala government should also make arrangements for both the orphans to have a home and their education. We should all pray and hope that no one has to face such oppression and suffering in the new year. (Rajat Sharma)
Watch: ‘Aaj Ki Baat, With Rajat Sharma’ Full Episode December 30, 2020