Thiruvananthapuram: A video that went viral over the weekend in Kerala showing a group of teens brutally thrashing a friend has thrown light on the likely extent of drug use among teenagers in the state.
The incident was reported from Kalamassery in Kerala’s commercial capital Kochi, and the brutal assault on one teenager by seven others – all of them teenagers, too – led to police booking the assailants even as the video of the battering was seen by thousands.
Only one of the boys was an adult – identified as Akhil Varghese – and he was arrested and sent on bail by the police. All the others being minors were sent home with their parents after registering cases.
Accused takes own life
The case was provided another twist on Monday morning when one of the accused attempted suicide and was rushed to a local hospital. However, he could not be saved.
The deceased was reportedly under pressure after the video went viral, and was facing investigation by the Kerala State Child Welfare Commission.
Police said the incident may have been provoked by some tiff among the boys over an affair with a girl, or the boy who was thrashed reporting their bad habits.
The video itself had appalling content, showing the minor victim being repeatedly kicked, punched and slapped by the others, and also making the boy kneel and posing for photos sitting on his back, and making him dance.
The matter came to light after the boy was admitted to a local hospital for injuries suffered in the thrashing.
The entire episode happened in an abandoned building, near the Glass Factory Colony in Kalamassery where gangs are reported to get together for their activities.
In 2016, Kerala’s then excise commissioner Rishiraj Singh had warned that Kerala could find itself in the same situation as Punjab in drug trafficking and abuse within a few years. Singh’s observation was based on the findings of the National Crime Records Bureau. By 2017, media reports put the incidence of drug abuse in Kerala at 16.6 per 100,000 population, second only to Punjab’s 20.2 per 100,000 population.
Curiosity, peer pressure and a juvenile tendency for adventure are said to be the causes driving many youngsters to drugs, say experts.
To attract youth to the dark web of drugs, peddlers use a variety of carrots including high-end bikes and mobile phones or hard cash. Some of them then steal money from home for drugs or become drug pushers themselves.
The shocking video and the suicide by one of the assailants have evoked strong reactions on social media in the state.
Some social media commentators blamed parental neglect for youngsters increasingly turning to drugs. “Failed parents, and a failed community”, wrote one, while another said parents ought to take equal responsibility with teachers for children going wayward.
Another commented that there was a lot of focus on giving counselling to girl students in schools while boys were often ignored in the aspect of psychological help.