Over two millenniums ago, Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, used to go around the city of Athens holding a lantern to the faces of people, looking for an honest man. It seems he hardly found one. Now, we are forced to embark on a much deeper search: looking for people with a compassionate conscience in the midst of selfish, brutal and ruthless behaviour. The recent barbaric killing of Madhu, an Adivasi youth in Kerala, should trigger this search. What was his fault? Why did he have to meet with such brutal end to his life? He had reportedly stolen curry powders and grains, worth hundred rupees or so, from a shop; he had allegedly indulged in such petty thefts earlier too. But why did he do so? To keep his body and soul together; to save himself from dying of starvation.
Sarveswar Dayal Saxena, a renowned Hindi poet, wrote a few decades back as if he had the hapless tribal man in his mind: After getting shot at/ The first man cried ‘Ram’/ The second man cried ‘Mao’/ The third man cried ‘Potato’/ The post-mortem report said/ The first two had their stomachs full. Yes, the third man’s life was taken away in empty stomach. True, Madhu’s postmortem too said he had very little food in his stomach; he was starved and famished; he was hounded out of his jungle ‘home’ by blood thirsty human beasts. Then, they celebrated his slaying, taking selfie with him as he begged for his life.
The traumatic end of Madhu holds mirror to a society which looks down at the Adivasis; it brings out the heartless attitude of portraying tribals as aliens to the modern way of life. It is yet another traumatic fall-out of exploiting the Adivasis by keeping them in subjugation.
Madhu’s is not an isolated incident of people’s frozen conscience in one of the most highly literate States. Days earlier, another youth had fallen prey to equally conscienceless villains. In Kannur district, a Youth Congress leader was stabbed 37 times reportedly by rival party men. The repugnancy of the act forced an agitated High Court Judge, holding the nauseating photo of the killing scene aloft, to give vent to his ire thus: Look what has been done to a young man. These words should reverberate in the ears of the so-called conscience-keepers of a State which has been witnessing such horrific killings intermittently. The killing of a Catholic priest by none other than his own former sexton in one of the most prominent pilgrim centres in Kerala – Malayattoor – is the latest bewildering example of people with seared conscience.
Situation is equally worse in other States. An atmosphere of killing and lynching by individuals and mobs is spreading fast. People take someone’s life with the ease of changing one’s dress. Often such beastly activities are spurred by trivial issues. The birthplace of ‘non-violence’ is swarmed by purveyors of death and destruction. Human beasts are on the prowl in a country which was the abode of prophets of non-violence. But, these beasts are not born out of nothing. Such mindless killings are often funded and promoted by politicians, business men and religious fanatics. In fact, in most such killings, the culprits are either hired killers or those who took to the bloody path blinded by fanatic ideologies, backed by powerful patrons.(Published on 05th March 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 10)