TN custodial death: Social media erupts over ‘torture’ of father-son

The hashtags #JusticeForJayarajAndBennix and #JusticeForJayarajAndFenix have been trending on all social media platforms since Thursday night

custodial death, Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, Jayaraj and Bennicks, Tamil Nadu Police

(The Federal’s Prabhakar Tamilarasu filed a detailed witness account of the police brutality on the father-son duo, P. Jayaraj and Emmanuel Bennicks, who later died).

Voices demanding justice for the deaths of the father-son duo, P Jayaraj and Emmanuel Bennicks, following sexual torture (inflicted by police using lathis), grew louder on social media and several prominent personalities lent support to the family of the deceased in Sathankulam, a town in Tamil Nadu’s southern district of Tuticorin.

The hashtags #JusticeForJayarajAndBennix and #JusticeForJayarajAndFenix have been trending on all social media platforms since Thursday (June 25) night.

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Netizens and politicians also called the duo “George Floyds of India”, linking the issue of police brutality in Thoothukudi to a similar incident in US’ Minneapolis, where an African-American named George Floyd died due to suffocation after he was kneed in the neck for eight minutes by a police officer named Derek Chauvin.

The incident in Minneapolis triggered widespread protests against racial discrimination across North America, with people calling for justice and reformation with regard to racism.

Celebrities, netizens, and politicians took to social media to condemn the custodial deaths in Thoothukudi.

Jignesh Mevani, an Independent MLA from Gujarat, compared the custodial deaths to the killing of Floyd, and said on Twitter, “Dear Bollywood celebrities, have you heard what happened in Tamil Nadu or does your instagram activism only extend for other countries? The George Floyds of India are far too many. The story of such police violence & sexual abuse is just heartbreaking.”

Actress Khushbu Sundar tweeted on Saturday (June 27), “Enough is enough! We cannot wait for justice to be delivered at leisure. Such brutality will not be tolerated. the court must take a very stern action to punish the guilty cops. Let this be the last incident of inhumanity TN witnesses. Fight for justice #JusticeforJayarajAndFenix.”

Film-maker Karthik Subburaj tweeted, “What happened in Sathankulam is horrible ! Insult to Humanism.. The accused officials needs to be Punished and Justice has to be given to those poor souls Some humans are more dangerous than viruses. #JusticeforJayarajAndFenix.”

Taking to Instagram, actress Samantha Akkineni shared the images of Jayaraj and Bennicks, and wrote, “Police brutality needs to stop..this is inhumane and will only result in more loss of faith in the system that is meant to protect (sic).”

Actress Kajal Aggarwal shared a video recorded by singer-host Suchithra and demanded justice for their family. She wrote, “I couldn’t even listen to this whole video. Grotesque and gruesome. The cops involved need a harsher punishment than just a transfer (sic).”

Actress Malavika Mohanan tweeted, “Horrified and numb to hear what has happened with Jayaraj and Fenix in Thoothukudi!!! This sort of brutality by the police is inhuman beyond words!!!”

Following the deaths of the father-son duo, the ruling AIADMK and opposition DMK on Friday each announced a solatium of 25 lakh to the family of the two men.

In the backdrop of the outrage that sparked across the country, DMK president M K Stalin on Saturday said his party would approach the court seeking a probe by the CBI, if the state government failed to conduct a proper investigation into the “custodial death” of Jayaraj and Bennicks.

Stalin also demanded the arrest of “those who converted Sathankulam police station as hunting grounds under murder charges.”

AIADMK coordinator and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and joint coordinator and Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, in a statement, termed the deaths as “unfortunate and saddening.”

Palaniswami also announced a compensation of 20 lakh to the family of the father and son. The issue has snowballed into a large political row, with Palaniswami reportedly remaining silent on the accusations of police brutality.

Meanwhile, the protests and severe backlash triggered by the incident led to the suspension of four policemen, including two sub-inspectors. An inspector has also been benched by the state government.

A large protest was organised in Tamil Nadu, with shops closed in Tuticorin and other parts of the state on Friday (June 26).

Protesters and netizens also sought reforms in law enforcement, particularly with regard to police.

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