17, May 2023 | CJP Team
“This is the first lynching case in God’s Own Country [Kerala]. Let it be the last such case…. Moral policing can never be encouraged in a civilised society. Unless instances of such moral policing is (sic) deprecated by awarding adequate sentences, this practice will be repeated by like-minded persons. Therefore, it should be a lesson for all those who are thinking of assuming the role of moral police.”
That was the observation of SC-ST Special Court Judge K.M. Retheesh Kumar while delivering the sentence in the sensational case of lynching of Bihar youth, Atthapady Madhu on April 5.
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A report in The Hindu brings the shocking news that, in less than six weeks since, the sourhern state renowned for social harmony has witnessed yet another brutal lynching. This time it was a youth from Bihar named Rajesh Manjhi. This 37-year-old labourer was beaten to death by a gang of men in the early hours of Sunday at Kizhissery.
In a chilling replay, there are many similarities between the lynching of Madhu and Manjhi. Both victims were forcibly constrained by two groups of people alleging charges of theft. Thereafter, both were mercilessly kicked and beaten. Then, were humiliated and their hands were tied. Lastly in both cases, victims were taken to the hospital by the police, but soon died. Post-mortem reports suggested that both died of severe internal injuries.
Mr. Retheesh Kumar’s emphatic statement that Madhu’s should be the last lynching case in Kerala has so far fallen on deaf ears. The only redeeming factor is the response from the police to the Kizhissery incident was much quicker and smarter than in Madhu’s case.
“We made the arrests within three hours after the incident. We collected incriminating pieces of evidence, including the weapons used to thrash Manjhi, his shirt, and videos. This is a clear case of murder,” District Superintendent of Police Sujith Das S. told The Hindu.
Unlike in the earlier Madhu case, Manjhi’s lynching did not attract a wider attention largely because of other news developments at the time, including the Karnataka election results. The quick response of the police by arresting nine of the accused within three hours after the incident too took the sheen of media sensation off the case.
If Madhu’s family had the support of society at large, particularly the media, during the trial of the case, it needs to be seen how Manjhi’s case is going to develop in a State away from his home State.
In the first case, the prosecution had failed to prove charges of murder under Indian Penal Code Section 302. “But we are confident that this case can get a conviction under Section 302. It was not an impulsive attack. It was deliberate. The beating took place from 12 midnight to 2.30 a.m. until Manjhi became unconscious. It was at 3.10 a.m. when a nurse attended to him and said he was dead,” said Mr. Das.
The police have now recovered the digital video recorder of a crucial surveillance camera that was taken away by one of the accused. The police have also recovered the mobile phones and some videos of Manjhi being beaten up.