Palakkad: A 30-year-old tribal man was allegedly beaten to death by local people who accused him of stealing food articles from some shops at forest-fringe town Agali near here, triggering protests across the state on Friday.
Seven persons, including two who allegedly had a direct role in the Thursday's incident, had been detained, police said.
Tribals and human rights activists staged protests in various parts of the state after photos and visuals of the fatal attack went viral on social media besides being telecast by TV channels.
"Local people killed my son. He would have lived somehow. The guilty should be punished," the victim's mother Malli told TV channels.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan condemned the incident, describing it as a "blot on Kerala's progressive society."
State police chief Loknath Behera said a special investigation team had been set up to probe the incident and Thrissur Range IG would oversee it.
The deceased, suspected to be mentally unsound, was identified as Madhu, hailing from Kadukumanna settlement of Attappady, one of the largest and most backward tribal hamlets in the state, police said.
He was thrashed by some local people on Thursday evening alleging that he had stolen food articles from shops in the town and later handed over to police.
Though he was rushed to nearby Agali government hospital by police, he vomited, collapsed and died on the way, police said.
Some television channels aired visuals purportedly showing people taking selfies with Madhu with his hands tied.
The shabbily dressed man, who was living in the forest near Mukkali here for some months, used to be seen wandering in the area, they said.
Activists of various tribal outfits staged a protest here demanding the arrest of all the culprits and refused to allow police to take the body for post mortem to the Thrissur Medical College Hospital.
They later relented after district collector and police officials held discussions with them.
"Seven persons are under our custody. Of them, two have been identified as directly involved in the incident," Agali Dy SP T K Subrahmanyan said.
He said no external injuries were noticed on the man's body and post-mortem would be conducted on Saturday.
Shocked relatives of Madhu said he was suffering from mental breakdown and had been staying away from home for some months.
Vijayan said stringent action would be taken against all the accused to ensure that such crimes, specially against people from communities that are marginalised, did not recur.
"This heinous act is a blot on the Kerala's progressive society. Kerala, as a whole, should stay extremely vigilant to ensure that that we continue to remain and progress as a caring, cosmopolitan society," he said in a statement.
State Minister for SC/ST Welfare A K Balan said a magisterial probe would be conducted into the incident and the government would extend all help to the victim's family.
Senior Congress leader A K Antony said exemplary punishment should be meted out to the accused and the state government should give compensation to Madhu's kins.
Terming the incident as "shocking" and 'shameful', leader of the opposition in the assembly Ramesh Chennithala alleged the law and order situation had collapsed in the state.
Meanwhile, Congress-led UDF and BJP has called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal in Mannarcaud in Palakkad district on Saturday over the incident....