A video of a teenager pleading with police officials to allow him to bury his father has triggered outrage in Kerala after the clip went viral on social media.
The boy’s parents had ‘accidentally’ immolated themselves on December 22 in Neyyatinkara in Thiruvananthapuram after police came to their house to evict them following a court order.
Fighting serious burns, the father died on Sunday and the mother on Tuesday.
When the son was digging the grave for his father, the police prevented him, saying it was against the court order. “You were responsible for the death of my father. He asked me to bury him here only. Let him rest peacefully for now,” the 16-year-old is heard saying on video.
According to local people, the family was staying in a two-room shanty which was allegedly built on an encroached land. The father was engaged in litigation with a neighbour for five years and a local court in Neyyatinkara had ordered him to evacuate the land in June.
On December 22, when police and revenue officials arrived at his house, he poured kerosene on himself and his wife and threatened to light themselves if they were forced out.
His children later said it was only a threat and police officials aggravated the situation and in the scuffle that followed their bodies had suddenly caught fire.
A police officer also received minor burn injuries while trying to save them. In the dying declaration, the boy’s father told a magistrate that he was “only threatening and police officials were responsible for the accidental fire”.
Local people said despite his poor background he used to distribute free food for urchins in the area almost every day.
Though police denied any involvement, saying the couple burnt themselves accidentally, the embarrassed government has ordered a probe into circumstances that led to their deaths. The state human rights commission has also asked the police to submit a report. The government said a new house will be built and it will bear the education expenses of children, aged 16 and 19.
The high court had stayed the lower court’s order on evacuation but it did not reach the family in time.
State opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala has asked the government to take action against erring police officials who allegedly drove them to death.
Many organisations and leaders have pledged to help the children. The mother will be buried near the same grave later in the day.
State police chief Loknath Behera has asked Thiruvananthapuram rural police superintendent B Ashokan to submit a report at the earliest.
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