A sleepy village near south Kerala’s Kollam district is bustling with activity these days as residents bear down to collect half a crore rupees in “blood money” through crowdfunding.
It’s a last-ditch attempt to rescue one of their own — 41-year-old Santhosh C, who is on death row in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after being convicted of murder.
The people of Kadakkal village believe Santhosh is incapable of taking a life and are scrambling to gather the hefty sum for his disadvantaged family as a court in Abu Dhabi prepares to hear his appeal on September 7.
Under Shariah law prevalent in Arab nations, diyat, or blood money, is compensation paid by a convict to the victim’s family in exchange for mercy in cases of murder and accident.
In 2011, Subin Varghese, an electrician from Kerala working with a contracting firm in Abu Dhabi, was stabbed to death in a brawl. Santhosh, who was employed with the same firm and was staying in the room next to Subin’s, was arrested based on statements from neighbours.
According to UAE police, the two had an argument during a drinking session and Santhosh in a fit of rage took out a knife and stabbed Subin several times who died of his injuries.
A court in Abu Dhabi awarded Santhosh the death sentence in 2013, but he was later granted the option of diyat.
However, Santhosh’s wife and eight-year-old daughter say he is a teetotaller.
“We chatted on Skype that night. He told me about a drinking session in the next room and there was some ruckus also. He told me as the brawl had worsened he would be moving to a friend’s house nearby,” said Santhosh’s wife, Sheena, claiming her husband came to know about the murder only the next day.
“Every time he says he’s innocent and he was falsely implicated, somehow. We have suffered a lot. I don’t want my daughter to be orphaned.”
The village panchayat head says Rs 17 lakh has been collected so far, with local traders, labourers and activists chipping in.
“We know the family well and Santhosh has no criminal record either. Since the family, wallowing in penury, can’t procure such a hefty amount, we decided to step in,” said R Latha, the panchayat president.
When contacted by HT, Subin’s family members said they didn’t wish to discuss the case.
The village local body has also brought the matter to the notice of chief minister Oommen Chandy who has promised help.
“We have got in touch with the victim’s family also,” said C Deepu, a panchayat member. “After depositing the blood money in court, Subin’s family members will have to give an undertaking that they have granted pardon to Santhosh.”