The death of a poor couple, who succumbed to burns after accidentally immolating themselves to stop an eviction drive here, has triggered a widespread row in Kerala, with opposition parties blaming police for the incident, following which the state government extended a helping hand to their orphaned children on Tuesday. The couple-Rajan (47) and his wife Ambili (40), natives of Nellimoodu at nearby Neyyattinkara- succumbed to burns at the government medical college hospital here after they sustained multiple organ failure on Monday.
The video of the their two teenaged children-Rahul and Renjith-wailing outside the hospital for help to cremate their father at the disputed land as per his last wish went viral on the social media, following which many have offered them help to construct an own house. As the opposition Congress took up the matter and criticised police for the unfortunate incident, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that his government would take over the protection of the children.
"The government will take over their protection and other responsibilities. We will meet their educational expenses and construct a house for them," he said in Thrissur when he came there as part of his state-wide tour to meet dignitaries in various fields ahead of the assembly election, due next year.
The Youth Congress has already announced that they were ready to construct a house for the hapless children while the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the youth arm of the ruling CPI(M),said they would meet their educational expenses. According to police, the immolation incident occurred on December 22 when police and an advocate commission appointed by a local court had gone to Rajan's house to implement a judicial order to evict him and his family from a three cent poramboke land based on the complaint of a neighbour.
Last June also, there was an attempt to evict the family from the disputed land. When the police personnel approached them, Rajan had doused himself and his wife with kerosene and warned them not to come closer.
They had caught fire accidentally when a police officer tried to snatch a lighter from him. Their children later alleged that the haste shown by the police had caused the mishap.
The law enforces had tried to evict them even after knowing that there would be a stay order, which came soon after the tragic incident, they told the media. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala on Tuesday demanded a probe into the alleged lapses from police during the eviction drive.
Based on the complaint of human rights activist Ashwathy Jwala, the state Human Rights Commission directed the Thiruvananthapuram district police chief (Rural) to probe alleged lapses of police into the incident and submit a report within four weeks. In the wake of the widespread complaints, DGP Loknath Behera directed Thiruvananthapuram Rural SP, B Ashok Kumar to probe the immolation incident and the death of the couple.
"The DGP directed to submit the report at the earliest," his office here said.
This news piece may be triggering. If you or someone you know needs help, call any of these helplines: Aasra (Mumbai) 022-27546669, Sneha (Chennai) 044-24640050, Sumaitri (Delhi) 011-23389090, Cooj (Goa) 0832- 2252525, Jeevan (Jamshedpur) 065-76453841, Pratheeksha (Kochi) 048-42448830, Maithri (Kochi) 0484-2540530, Roshni (Hyderabad) 040-66202000, Lifeline 033-64643267 (Kolkata)