The custodial death of father-son duo Jayaraj and Emmanuel Bennicks in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin on June 22 has triggered a war of words between major political parties in the state.
While media reports about the horrific sequence of events related to the case are widely being shared on social media, Information and Publicity minister Kadambur Raju, an elected member to the assembly from Kovilpatti constituency in Tuticorin district said that the death of the father-son duo is not a custodial death.
On June 28, while addressing the media at Kovilpatti, the minister said that only if they have died in the police station it can be considered as ‘custodial death’.
“They did not die in the police station. They were brought before the magistrate and then they were kept in Kovilpatti sub-jail where they died. Since it happened outside the police station it cannot be considered as a lock-up death,” he said.
The minister’s claim has created a furore in the state’s political circles, unleashing discussions over police brutality in the state.
Taking to Twitter, DMK’s Lok Sabha MP Kanimozhi from Tuticorin has questioned if the minister is claiming that there was no torture in lock-up.
“CM says deaths were due to breathlessness. Now, his minister questions whether these are “lockup deaths”! All deaths under custody of police or judiciary are custodial deaths,” she tweeted.
She also alleged that Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and his Cabinet are trying to sabotage the investigation.
“Our apprehension is that the CM and his Cabinet are now actively sabotaging the investigation by making these statements. When the Magistrate is conducting an inquiry under the monitoring of the High Court of Madras, will not such statements create unnecessary confusion?” asked Kanimozhi.
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi’s MP D. Ravikumar from Villupuram has said the caste resentment in the police departments should be weeded out.
“There are reports claiming that there is a caste angle involved in this case, allegedly by the police. Also the film stars who are condemning this atrocity must refrain themselves from a ring in films which are justifying the police excesses,” he tweeted.
While criticising the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to transfer the case to the CBI, Ravikumar said the move raises doubts whether the state government would try to bury the case with the help of the Centre.
“The court should not allow this. It must form a special committee under its supervision to investigate the case and the sentence must be given within 3 months,” Ravikumar told The Federal.
He said every political party should have separate human rights wing to bring the culture of respecting each other in the society. The wings should look after human rights violations and bring it to light beyond politics.
Interestingly, no other major political parties in the state, except the DMK and the VCK, or even the allies of the DMK — CPI and CPM — released any statements condemning these deaths.
Even as TNCC chief K. S. Alagiri, MMK chief M. H. Jawahirullah, and MDMK chief Vaiko, reacted over this issue on June 23, the PMK — an ally of AIADMK — has not given any statements.
Meanwhile, DMDK supremo Vijayakant and chief of state BJP L. Murugan condoled the family of the deceased and strongly condemned the incident.
Amid the uproar over films promoting police brutality taking over social media, Kollywood filmmaker Hari, who has directed five cop-based movies, eulogising the department said that he regrets having directed those films.
“There should not be another incident like Sathankulam in the future. The perpetrators must be given maximum punishment. Due to the actions of some individuals, the whole department is painted in a bad picture. I regret to have directed five films in which I have glorified the police,” he said.
Tamil actor Rajinikanth’s publicist said that he spoke to Jayaraj’s widow over the phone and expressed his heartfelt condolences.
A week after the shocking incident came to light, two similar cases were reported from the state, creating a stir among the netizens.
On Sunday (June 28), a youth named Kumaresan from Tenkasi district died in police custody after he was repeatedly beaten up and kicked by the cops in his private parts.
In another case, Ganesamurthy, a construction labourer from Ettayapuram in Tuticorin district died by suicide, allegedly due to the mental agony caused by the police, who thrashed him for drunk driving.