Kerala— From the suspected mob trial of a 46-year-old tribal man Vishwanathan in Kerala, to the death of Darshan Solanki, an 18-year old Dalit student at IIT Bombay, these incidents serve as a painful reminder of the discrimination and violence faced by individuals from oppressed communities.
Vishwanathan, a tribal daily wager from Wayanad, had waited eight years to have a child with his wife, Bindu. Their first child was born on February 9. The delivery had taken place at the Government Medical College Hospital in Kozhikode, more than two hours away from their village in Wayanad. Two days later, on February 11, Vishwanathan was found hanging near the medical college hospital. The police claimed it to be a suicide but Vishwanathan's family refuted the claims.
Viswanathan's brother, Gopi told the media that his brother's recent death was not a suicide, as he had been waiting for a baby to be born for eight years and being overjoyed by the recent arrival. Gopi also expresses suspicion about the autopsy procedures, stating that the process had already begun before the family arrived to sign off on it and they were not informed about the timing of the autopsy.
Vishwanathan was allegedly harassed on February 9 for supposedly stealing a mobile phone while he was staying in the bystanders' area. He was questioned by the hospital security personnel and was allegedly beaten up by people who accused him for stealing money and phone. Despite not being found guilty, he reportedly fled from the area due to continued harassment. When he did not return to the Medical College, his family informed the police.
However, his body was found hanging from a tree near the hospital two days later. Vishwanathan's family members who saw the body claimed that there were injuries on his legs and hands, and swelling on the top of his shoulder. His nose was bleeding, his lips were swollen, and there was an injury near it as well. It looked like he was beaten up, his nephew Rajesh told the media.
Kerala State Human Rights Commission has registered a case suo moto over the death of Viswanathan. K Baijunath, the judicial member of the commission, has directed the Assistant Commissioner of Medical College police and hospital superintendent to submit reports within a week.
The police have launched a detailed investigation into the case, but the family is still waiting for answers.
Several tribal organizations in the state have demanded a thorough investigation by central agencies into the incident, as they believe that the police are attempting to cover up the truth. These organizations, such as the Kerala Pattikajathi and Pattikavarga Samrakshana Samiti, have called for an extensive probe to identify all those allegedly involved in the suspected public trial and assault of the tribal man.
Following the incident, Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi visited Vishwanathan's family in Wayanad district, who suspected foul play in his death. Gandhi spent some time with the family at the Paravayal colony, listening to their concerns and offering words of comfort. In a statement, he said expressing his belief that Vishwanathan had been the victim of a mob trial and that a thorough investigation should be carried out to uncover the truth.
The recent incident has prompted comparisons to the mob lynching of Madhu, a mentally unstable tribal youth who was fatally assaulted by locals in February 2018 in Attappadi, Palakkad district. The assault was prompted by accusations of Madhu stealing provisions from a grocery store, and his badly injured image went viral on social media, sparking a large public outcry. The incident raised concerns about the safety of oppressed communities in Kerala, which is known for its high literacy and human development indices. Madhu died shortly after the brutal assault.
On Sunday afternoon, Darshan Solanki, an 18-year-old BTech student from Ahmedabad, reportedly died after jumping from the seventh floor of his hostel building at IIT Bombay’s campus in Powai. While no suicide note was found, the police have registered a case of accidental death. A pall of gloom descended the area on Tuesday morning as the shock struck family conducted final rites of the deceased student.
In the wake of Solanki’s death, the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle ( APPSC) at IIT Bombay tweeted that the institution had failed to make the space inclusive and safe for dalit bahujan adivasi students, suggesting that the incident was not an individual issue but an example of institutional murder. The group claimed that the IIT was lacking in representation of faculty and counselors from marginalized communities.
The APPSC stated that the loss of Solanki is a tragedy for both his family and the community as a whole, with the latter left to question what went wrong with the bright young man in the premier institute. The group stated that explanations of the academic pressure and ruthless competition would not provide clarity on the situation. It was suggested that the cause of the tragedy may have been caste discrimination or unendurable stress, but it was clear that the issue was institutional in nature. Darshan's death is being compared to Rohith Vermula's tragic death on similar lines of marginalization in Indian higher education institutions.
The APPSC demanded a thorough investigation into Solanki’s death by IIT Bombay and that a public report be presented. Over a hundred IIT Bombay students held a candlelight vigil on campus in memory of Solanki at 10 pm on Sunday. The director of the institution only called for a condolence meeting for Solanki on the night of February 12, after pressure from the student community. The email sent by the director about the incident did not even mention Solanki by name, which the group views as a further example of institutional apathy in the light of the grave incident.
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