The death of a poor couple, who died from burn injuries after accidentally immolating themselves to stop an eviction drive in Thiruvananthapuram, has triggered a widespread row in Kerala, with opposition parties blaming the police for the incident, following which the state government extended a helping hand to their orphaned children today.
The couple, Rajan (47) and his wife Ambili (40), died at the government medical college and hospital in Thiruvananthapuram after they suffered multiple organ failure on Monday.
The video of the their two teenaged children, Rahul and Renjith, crying 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 offered to help them construct a house of their own.
As the opposition Congress took up the matter and criticised the police for the incident, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that his government will protect the children of the couple.
"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 as part of his state-wide tour to meet dignitaries in various fields ahead of the assembly elections that are due next year.
The Youth Congress have already announced that they were ready to construct a house for the 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 the police, the incident occurred on December 22 when the 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 land that belongs to the government based on the complaint of a neighbour. Earlier in June this year, there was an attempt to evict the family from the disputed land.
When the police personnel approached them, Rajan doused himself and his wife in kerosene and warned them not to come closer.
They caught fire accidentally when a police officer tried to snatch the lighter away from him.
Their children later alleged that the haste shown by the police had caused the mishap.
The law enforcers 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 by the 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 the alleged lapses by the police in the incident and submit a report within four weeks.
In the wake of the widespread complaints, Director General of Police (DGP) Loknath Behera directed Thiruvananthapuram Rural Superintendent, 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 said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)