Many people were in shock and disbelief when they heard the news that a 28 year old mentally unsound tribal man, Madhu was lynched in Attapady, Kerala for stealing some food articles from some shops in Agali town. People took to social media to express their outrage and horror. How could the people of Kerala who take pride of being the most literate and socially conscious could indulge in such a ghastly act?
The state Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the incident was a “blot” on Kerala’s progressive society. "Madhu's death is, because our system is responsible..???. a system which has ordered mob justice and a person who attacks another is no human. How can we declare ourselves modern and progressive?" wrote Kerala’s popular actor Mammooty in his facebook post. “The incident is a blot on our society and our state as a whole and we are all forced to hang our heads in shame, that such an incident has taken place in our state that boasts of 100 per cent literacy,” wrote Justice Surendra Mohan, a judge of Kerala High Court in his letter to the Chief Justice of the High Court.
Madhu had been living in a cave in the forest for years after a fatal head injury left him mentally unsound. On 23rd February 2018, his cave was raided by some people who accused him of stealing ration and conducted a public trial and thrashed him. According to the statement of Madhu’s mother, Mallika and sister Chandrika a group of nearly 10-15 persons went to the forest and thrashed him. "After being beaten up, Madhu was made to walk over four km with a heavy sack on his back," they alleged. The police had let go of the perpetrators and Madhu died while he was being taken to the police station. The perpetrators of the crime had the audacity to take the photo and upload it on the social media.
Journalist Anand Kochukudy in his article, “What Lynching of Tribal Man Tells about Kerala?” has analysed the attitude of the people of Kerala. According to him a large section of the Kerala society is deeply prejudiced against migrant workers and sexual minorities. “The prejudice is also stocked in an inherent superiority complex prevailing among Malayalis who look down upon migrants as lesser mortals. This is deeply hypocritical of a society that thrives on remittances from the “Gulf” and do not hesitate to migrate to any remote corner of the world in search of opportunities,” he wrote.
Many studies show that under nutrition and child mortality rates are very high among the tribals in Kerala in comparison with other segments of Kerala society. The infant mortality rate (IMR) in the state as a whole is 10, but it remains as high as 66 in this block. A lot of money has been earmarked and spent on the tribals since 1996 but most of this money has not reached the intended beneficiaries.
This incident happened when Christians all over the world are observing Lent. During Lenten season Christians meditate on the suffering and death of Jesus; also do penance, fasting and abstinence in order to express solidarity with Jesus. In most of the churches in Kerala a devotion, “Way of the Cross” commemorating the fourteen incidents on the way of Jesus to Calvary is practised.
Jesus had told his disciples unambiguously, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Mt. 25:40) Whatever help a follower of Jesus does to any human being is a help done to Jesus himself. It is also true that whatever injustice or cruelty done to any human person is a cruelty done to Jesus himself. How many Christians who participate in the rituals and prayers of Lenten season have reflected on the lynching of Madhu, and how such cruelties could be prevented? How many priests and bishops in their sermons during these days condemned this horrific crime? If the disciples of Jesus are not able to respond to the ‘killing of Jesus’ that is taking place in society every day, the rituals and abstinence have no meaning.
Jesus was a person who responded to the injustices in his society and his persecution and death on the cross was the consequence of his prophetic actions. The followers of Jesus are expected to respond to the injustices in society. Jesus’ teaching and actions show that indifference and insensitivity are the biggest crimes. “The world suffers a lot not because of the violence of the bad people but because of the silence of good people”, said Napoleon Bonaparte. We, the followers Jesus, have to realize that when an innocent person is killed, when a journalist is murdered for writing against superstition and blind faith, when an activist is killed for exposing corruption Jesus is crucified and this realization will motivate us to respond. If this is to happen the followers of Jesus should have the spirituality of “Jesus of Nazareth” and not the religiosity of the “Jesus of Christians”.
(firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 12th March 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 11)