Victims of failure to understand


The stories of four migrant workers who have suffered because of people's suspicions:

Amir, Bihar

'Black Man'

Amir, 22, had come to Varkala in Thiruvanathapuram. Every morning, he would join other migrants at a place where contractors come "shopping" for workers, one of several such areas in markets across Kerala.

Last December 23, Amir went near a Dalit colony at Ayiroor in Thiruvananthapuram Rural, having been alerted about a possible job. He found none but kept looking and got stranded in the evening. "Early the next day, local people caught him," says inspector V S Prasanth.

They tied him to an electric post, their suspicions fuelled by recent thefts and rumours about the "Black Man" who had supposedly committed them. Besides, people of the Dalit colony were being suspected of the thefts. To create the impression that they had nabbed the Black Man, the inspector said, they covered Amir's head in a black shawl and made him clutch a rod to look like a housebreaker. The crowd swelled; some slapped his face, some even tried to paint him black. They grilled him with questions he could not answer, any more than he could understand what they were accusing him of.

The police arrived but the mob was reluctant to hand him over, insisting that he be placed under arrest. With an assurance that he wouldn't be released, police finally took him away 10 hours after he had been caught.

He was arrested under CrPC section 41B, produced in court and remanded in judicial custody for two weeks in the absence of someone to plead for bail on his behalf. Last week, the magistrate extended his remand by another two weeks as there was no one to stand surety. He remains in Attingal sub-jail, no one having come looking for him yet. Police say they have not been able to trace his relatives from the Bihar address he has given them.

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