At least 16 people committed suicide or died of cardiac arrest (heart attacks) across Tamil Nadu after a special court in Bangalore convicted AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa in the 66.65 crore disproportionate assets case on Saturday and sentenced her to four years in prison. Two people have been hospitalized with severe burns.
Police said three people hanged themselves, one AIADMK supporter committed suicide by self-immolation, one person ended his life by jumping in front of a bus and one person died after consuming poison after the court pronounced its verdict. Ten others died of cardiac arrest, apparently due to shock after Jayalalithaa's conviction, a police officer said.
Two people, including a Class 12 student, attempted self-immolation self and have been hospitalised with severe burns. Another ardent AIADMK supporter chopped off his little finger in Tirupur.
Ironically, the chief minister had in August written a letter to a woman who attempted to kill herself after a Sri Lankan government website carried a derogatory post on Jayalalithaa. She urged the woman not to be overcome with emotion and asked her to understand that suicide is an act of cowardice.
Party leaders said the extreme reactions were testimony to Jayalalithaa's popularity but called on party supporters not to take the step.
Social welfare board chairperson and AIADMK women's wing deputy secretary C R Saraswathi said the reactions of grief "shows the relationship people share" with Jayalalithaa. "Everyone in the state sees Amma as their mother," she said.
More than 16,600 people killed themselves in Tamil Nadu last year, the most cases of suicide among all states with the exception of Maharashtra. In a state where political leaders and film stars are larger than life, it is not uncommon for people to react to a setback to a leader by committing suicide, especially by self-immolation, a social scientist said.
Of the 16,601 cases of suicide in Tamil Nadu in 2013 more than 2,000 were by self-immolation - the most painful way to die - or 12.6% of all cases of suicide in the state, as compared to a nationwide average of 7.3%. Experts have linked the phenomenon to Tamil Nadu's culture and literature, in which numerous stories treat fire as a cleansing spirit, a form of protest or as a statement of intent.
Police said Venkatesan, 58, a resident of APN Pratap Nagar in Valasaravakkam, Chennai, set himself ablaze on Saturday. He died at Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital (KMCH) on Sunday. A Jonasha, 19, a second-year BA student of Trichy, and Lakshmanan, 40, of Modakurichi near Erode, hanged themselves on Saturday night. An unidentified party supporter in Sivaganga also hanged himself, police said.
Subramanian, 70, of Singampunari near Theni, ended his life by consuming poison. Party supporter Nalayiram, 48, of Pavoorchathiram near Tenkasi in Tirunelveli, was crushed after he jumped in front of a moving bus on Saturday.
Class 12 student M Nagalakshmi, 17, set herself ablaze near Madurai. She has been hospitalised with 80% burns. AIADMK supporter Balakrishnan, 52, set himself on fire in his house at 4pm on Sunday. He has been admitted to Government Hospital in Cuddalore with 65% burns.
'Rettai Ilai' Bhoopathy of Tirupur chopped off his little finger after hearing about the court verdict, police said.