Power of Social Media: Protesters seek justice for Kerala man killed for love

Today’s protest at Secretariat

Hundreds of protestors turned out to seek justice for a 27-year-old boy allegedly killed by a team of Kerala policemen for getting romantically involved with a girl who was related to one of them.

In a rare occurrence in Kerala — where protests not organized by political parties fail miserably — hundreds of people turned up today at the gate of the state secretariat in Trivandrum. The turnout surprised political observers.

The protest took shape after a Malayalam Facebook Page called ‘Human Being – Manushyan‘ shared a post saying that the victim’s mother could lose her second son as Sreejith, the brother of the victim, is facing deteriorating health after fasting in front of the state secretariat for two years.

The secretariat houses the offices the chief minister and other ministers.

The success of today’s event, which was organized largely without anyone taking any particular leadership role, has attracted much attention.

Unlike many states in India and despite high level of political consciousness, Malayalis tend not to get involved in civil protests unless it is organized by one of the three main political fronts. This was once again made apparent when the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare five years ago failed to make much headway in Kerala despite strong feelings against corruption.

A CASE OF TORTURE?

Sreejiv, the youngest of three brothers, was picked up by the police in May 2014 after allegedly being implicted in a false case of burglary.

On May 19, 2014, police informed Sreejiv’s family that the boy had committed suicide in the police station by consuming poison.

However, in May 2016, an inquiry by the Police Complaints Authority of Kerala held it to be a case of death by torture.

The Authority named Sub Inspector Gopakumar and Assistant Sub-Inspector Philippose as being directly responsible for Sreejiv’s death. Philippose is reported to be a relative of the girl. The Authority also named three lower-ranked policemen for apparently helping the duo in the crime.

The body recommended that the government should immediately institute a departmental inquiry into the matter.

However, even after nearly a year-and-a-half, no action has been taken against the officers, allege Sreejith, the elder brother who is still on fast.

The social media post by ‘Being Human’ created a sympathy wave for the brother, who looks visibly weak after spending two years on the street on a liquid diet.

In an apparent effort to tap the wave, Ramesh Chennithala, a leader of the Congress Party and the head of the opposition in Kerala, visited Sreejith to express his solidarity on Saturday, but faced some tough questions from Sreejith’s friends who were present at the fasting venue.

A viral video shows Chennithala beating a hasty retreat after Sreejith’s friends asked him why he didn’t take any action as he was the minister in charge of police and home affairs when the incident happened. Chennithala was the home minister till May 2016, when the current, Left front government came to power.

One of Sreejith’s friends also told the leader that he was among the group of people who had visited his office when he was home minister to seek an inquiry. At the time, the friend alleged, Chennithala had warned against holding a fast and apparently warned Sreejith that he will have to eat a lot of dust and subject himself to mosquito bites if he chose that path.

A group of BJP party workers who came to the venue soon after Chennithala were also opposed by Sreejith’s friends.

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