Every so often stories come to light of how we, the educated, urban upper middle-class in India, treat domestic help or others we consider lower down in the socio-economic hierarchy – humiliating them, starving them, sexually assaulting them. But even by those wretched standards, the murderous assault and death of Kattungal Chandrabose, a security guard at a posh residential complex in Kerala, stands out for its senseless brutality, and the arrogance of its perpetrator.
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The 47-year-old, who breathed his last in a hospital in Thrissur on Monday, was employed as a guard at Sobha City, an exclusive gated complex in the city. According to news reports, he stopped one of the residents, businessman Mohammed Nisham, for identification when he drove up to the gate in his Hummer in the early hours of January 29. Though the gate was opened once Chandrabose identified the driver as Nisham, he flew into a rage about the delay and began assaulting the security guard. When the terrified guard tried to run away, Nisham chased him in his Hummer and rammed it into him, after which he continued to beat him with an iron rod, till others intervened. The bloodstains on the Hummer, shown on various news channels, bear terrifying witness.
This is hardly the first brush with crime for 38-year-old Nisham, who runs a beedi trade, a real estate concern and hotels and jewellery shops in West Asia. An owner of various super luxury cars, he earned notoriety for the video he uploaded on YouTube of his 9-year-old son driving a Ferrari, with his younger brother next to him. Other cases against Nisham include one for locking a woman police officer inside his Rolls Royce for having stopped and questioned him, beating up a city resident over a parking spot and for having posted abusive comments against his cousin’s wife on Facebook, according to reports in Malayala Manorama and other newspapers. The businessman is currently in judicial custody and the police plan to book him under Kerala Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act though the reports that have emerged so far suggest they have been unsuccessful in getting sufficient evidence.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had said the cost of Chandrabose’s treatment would be borne by the government. But he, and the state, need to do more to ensure the late security guard and his family get justice, starting with fool-proof protection for the eyewitnesses in the case. There are already rumours of crores being offered to Chandrabose’s family to “settle”. They might not take it but what is the guarantee that other witnesses, like the other security guards, might not succumb to pressure or to threats, from a man who seems to have been leading a charmed life despite ten other cases against him.
This crime has happened in faraway Thrissur, not in New Delhi or Mumbai, so if Nisham does get away scot free, I suspect there will be no candle-light marches at India Gate. But in case he does, the government and we as a society need to remember that it will be the gravest travesty of justice, of having allowed a man to crush the life out of a fellow human being for the most trivial of reasons. That should not be allowed to happen.