The tribes inhabiting and settled in forests and the nomads/denotified tribes in the mainland are the continual targets of the rest of society. These sections of society are treated with suspicion, not because they resort to crimes but because they possess identities laden with centuries of stereotypes and stigmas against them, and are hence criminalised in various instances.
It is not just society that treats them as criminals, instead, they are also branded by the law of the land as criminals. The laws such as The Probation of Offenders Act and the Habitual Offenders Act of various state governments which replaced the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 are the methods for criminalising the people possessing such social identities.
In the cases of mob lynching of Muslims in India, the mob doesn’t always need to be a fringe right-wing religious fundamentalist group backed by the government. In the case of Adivasis, it is the tendency of the rest of society to treat the movements of Adivasis and denotified tribes with suspicion.
The killing of Madhu Chindaki, a 27-year-old tribal man in Kerala, for alleged food theft is a horrendous act by the mob. To make matters worse, people in the said mob were seen taking selfies while Madhu was tied up with a rope and people holding sticks in their hands. The mob justice of reactionary groups is the new normal in India.
The middle-class dominated reactionary Indian society needs to realise that Adivasi lives are not disposable. We protect the likes of Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi and various other culprits who indulge in capitalist primitive accumulation, forcing society into the oceans of poverty among small islands of prosperity.
Who is responsible for hunger and starvation? The tribal man in Kerala resorted to theft not because it is his habit nor do his actions have to be appropriated to community-based practice (which apparently is treatment encouraged under the colonial regime), rather it is a clear case of hunger.
Why was Madhu Chindaki killed?
The death of Madhu Chindaki, a twenty-seven-year-old tribal man who belonged to the Kurumba tribe and lived in Attapady in the forests of the Westerns Ghats, is the evidence of Indian caste-based social reality. It shows the prejudices that are still prevalent against the oppressed sections in the much claimed progressive state of Kerala.
Further, Madhu Chindaki was mentally ill, and thus even more vulnerable because of both his tribal identity and his mental illness. He was a victim of both identity-based and mental illness-based prejudice in the society. There have been many studies to show that those suffering from mental illness are at increased risk of violence, both from themselves and from an insensitive and ableist society.
Madhu Chindaki was attacked by a mob that accused him of stealing rice from a kirana (grocery) store. The video that surfaced on social media sites which seems to be shot be by his assailants, showed him being questioned by the fringe mob. In some photographs that are taken as selfies, we can see his arms being tied with a lungi.
Further, after beating him black and blue, the assailants then handed him over to the police. Madhu Chindaki died in the police jeep after developing complications on the way to the government hospital. The police stated that the cause of Madhu’s death would be ascertained after an autopsy.
“This is some sort of fascist Malayali psyche which has developed recently and has to be tackled. If the police wish to arrest me for sharing this video on social media, let them do that”, mentioned actor cum director Joy Mathew on his Facebook account. It was only after this post that the whole heinous incident came into the limelight.
The middle-class dominated reactionary Indian society needs to realise that Adivasi lives are not disposable.
Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of Kerala in his Facebook post said: “This is no way good for a literate society and the progress that our state has made. I have instructed the state police chief (the DGP) to see that all those who have had a role to be brought before the rule of law”.
Writer CS Chandrika in her Facebook post (written in Malayalam) said, “The Adivasi population in Kerala is hardly 4.45 lakh. The answer to the question of Adivasi’s position in the state’s development process lies in the death of hundreds of Adivasi children in Attapadi. Lynching a tribal destitute, who was starving through tying him up with the lungi, is the continuation of those deaths. The life and death of Adivasis reflect the heinous, anti-human, violent face of Kerala’s hitherto development”.
Another activist, Meera Sangha Meetra who manages NAPM-Telangana (National Alliance of Peoples Movement) said that “Madhu may be in rags and dishevelled. But the expression on his face and in his blazing eyes is extremely powerful and telling. It speaks volumes. It is not a face that is seeking pity or charity. It is a face that is questioning the ‘collective conscience’ of this country. It is a face that is putting all of us to perpetual shame. It is a face that is seeking answers from a notorious nation. We will again be failing him and fooling ourselves as a society if we refuse to read and recognize that feeling, that fire, that face!”
The society which is structured on hierarchies always allowed those who are at the top of the social ladder to impose a perennial suppression of the masses at the bottom. The bleeding process of the wealth, assets and natural resources in possession of the privileged has strengthened the structured social hierarchy in India.
The various sections who are always secluded from the mainstream and remained in the forests are repeatedly being attacked by the global imperialism of the current regime which has collaborated with the cultural right-wing. Society needs to realise that the powerless have the right to live.
Featured Image Credit: The New Indian Express