Kerala tribal man lynching : Victim’s mother alleges attempts to weaken the case
The number of witnesses who turned hostile in the 2018 Kerala tribal man lynching case rose to nine with one more witness turning hostile on Saturday
The relatives of the tribal man, who was lynched by a mob in Kerala’s Palakkad in 2018, alleged that the inordinate delay and casual attitude of authorities have weakened the case even as one more witness turned hostile on Saturday. Nine witnesses have turned hostile in the case so far and two public prosecutors have been replaced.
The victim, Madhu (28), a tribal man with mental illnesses, was lynched by a mob accusing him of stealing food on Feb 22, 2018 in Attapadi, one of the most impoverished areas of the state that hit headlines frequently over malnutrition deaths of tribal children. Post-mortem report later confirmed that he suffered serious internal injuries in the attack that eventually led to his death. Some of the accused later posted selfies with the frail bleeding man who was tied to a tree.
The 19th witness in the case, Kakki Moopan, turned hostile in the special court in Palakkad’s Mannarkkad on Saturday. He told the court that he did not see Madhu getting assaulted and he was forced to give such a statement by the police.
The victim’s mother, V Malli alleged there were concerted efforts to weaken the case from the beginning. “If the trial was held fast this should not have happened. All the accused are out on bail and they got enough time to influence witnesses. Some of the witnesses were even threatened to change their statement,” she lamented. She said one of the accused even approached her and threatened not to pursue the case. She said police registered a case against M Abbas, one of the key accused, only last week after she made several complaints.
“Even some of our family members also tell us that Madhu will not return then why do you want to spoil lives of many including youngsters. Tribals’ lives also matter. We need justice,” said Malli.
Madhu’s killing triggered widespread outrage and the government constituted a special investigation team which filed the charge-sheet in six months against 16 accused. Besides murder (Section 302 of the IPC) they were also charged under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989.
His mother said Madhu was a person with mental illnesses and he had been staying away from the family for many years. She said he used to come out of the forests once in a while to collect food items to sustain his life in the forest and he was not a thief as alleged by the mob.
In 2019, the government appointed V T Raghunath as the prosecutor but he quit later and another lawyer C Rajendran replaced him. He was also shifted last month after the mother moved the high court after a number of witnesses turned hostile. Last month a new prosecutor Rajesh M Menon was appointed by the court. He said legal action will be taken against hostile witnesses.
“It is sad the case is getting weakened and authorities are turning a blind eye to it. Money, muscle power and political pressure are used to influence the witnesses. There are many laws to protect tribals and weaker sections but most of them remain only on papers,” said Dalit activist Dhanya Raman. But a senior official of the law department, who preferred not to be quoted, said the trial was delayed due to pandemic and the government will ensure justice in the case.