From the Guardian - environmentalist Jawahar Kumaran killed himself and left a video protesting about ‘toxic plastic’
"In late October, the streets of the temple town of Thanjavur were abuzz with Diwali festivities, the skies glittering with fireworks. One home, however, was cloaked in darkness.
“We aren’t celebrating Diwali because we are in mourning this year,” said K Kumaran, just back from his 10-hour shift as a security guard at a private college. In the corner of the living room, his wife Vijaya fixes the wick on a flickering oil lamp that stood in front of a framed photograph of their 19-year-old son, Jawahar. “If he was here, my son would have approved of the dark house,” said Vijaya. “He thought firecrackers were polluting, and environmentally disastrous.” Jawahar, a young community activist in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India, had killed himself less than a month earlier.
He had left home after breakfast on 10 October, and did not return or call home all day. “At first, we didn’t think it was unusual,” said Kumaran, sighing. Jawahar had been a strenuous activist, often out on protests around the area. Earlier this year, he had gone on a hunger fast; he sat on the road outside a central tourist spot, demanding that city officials confiscate all plastic bags. Before that, he had climbed the Collector’s [government] office building, threatening to jump off unless Thanjavur enforced the plastic ban. On both occasions, it was the police that called Kumaran and Vijaya, asking them to take their boy home after he had been detained. In many other instances, the parents had found out about Jawahar’s public protests through the local Tamil newspapers.
But after a day had passed this time and there had still been no word from their son, Kumaran filed a missing person’s complaint, on Vijaya’s insistence. That evening the police found him; he had drowned in the canal. No one suspected suicide until, on the day of the cremation, a cousin found a video in Jawahar’s phone.
“It was a declaration of suicide,” said the cousin, K Elavaenil. In the self-recorded video, the religious Jawahar wears holy ash on his forehead. Speaking in Tamil he says, “I am sacrificing my life in the hope that it will trigger serious concern about plastic use in India. Since all of my peaceful means of protest failed, I’m forced to choose suicide. To save the lives of millions of people affected by toxic plastic, I don’t think it’s wrong to kill myself.”
The full article can be read here.