Sathankulam custodial deaths:

Another grotesque exposure of the repressive police system of the Indian State

The people of Tamilnadu and the rest of India have been shocked by the horrendous custodial murder of father and son, Mr. Jayaraj (59) and Mr. Immanuel Bennicks (31), who were residents of Sathankulam town panchayat in Thoothukudi district. The brutality of the torture and the impunity with which the police higher ups are trying to cover up the murder has met with tremendous opposition by people all across the country. The reluctance of the State Government and the police hierarchy to prosecute the guilty policemen has been severely condemned by all sections of people. In spite of eyewitness accounts by the victims’ friends, and availability of factual information pointing to the brutal torture of father and son, the police apparatus, the district magistrate and the state government have tried to cover up the crime. The revelation that during the torture, the guilty policemen pushed a lathi into the rectum of Bennicks causing severe internal damage has caused immense anger and revulsion.

All available evidence has very clearly established that the death of the two persons is a result of brutal torture inflicted on them during the Police custody on 19-20th June. The explanation given by the police that they died of natural causes has no shred of truth in it.

Jayaraj and Bennicks were arrested on 19th June evening by the Sathankulam police on a trivial charge of defying Corona regulations to shut shop by the stipulated time of 8 pm. The FIR registered against them indicates that they were charged for committing offences u/s 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 294(b) (Obscene act in public place), 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), and 506(ii) (Punishment for criminal intimidation) of IPC. The punishment for these sections, if proven, ranges from 1 month to 7 years with or without fine. This shows that the police officers wanted to prove to the shopkeepers that they can act with impunity. They deliberately created a bunch of blatantly false allegations to justify their inhuman attacks.

In spite of requests by a number of people including near relatives and advocates, the police did not relent but continued with their torture throughout 19th and 20th June. Jayaraj’s wife and mother of Bennicks reported that they were asked to bring several pairs of lungis since the victims were profusely bleeding. The District Magistrate did not even bother to enquire into the details of the allegations when the victims were dragged to his house.

Torture of innocent people in jails and deaths in custody are regular crimes committed by the security establishment of the Indian State to drive fear into the people and build an environment of nil tolerance for any kind of protests or opposition from the people. The “Crime in India” annual publication of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) enumerates custodial crimes reported in the country. In 2017, a total of 100 persons died in police custody, with Andhra Pradesh having the highest number at 27. The most common reason reported for custodial death in 2017 was suicide (37) followed by death in illness/hospital during treatment (28). For the 100 custodial deaths not one person had been convicted according to the Report.   A total of 33 policemen were arrested and 27 policemen were charge sheeted for these 100 deaths.

These numbers are extremely under reported but the official report underscores that custodial deaths are a regular phenomenon.

A newspaper report noted that 106 people lost their lives in Maharashtra in police custody between 2013 and 2017. It was followed by Andhra Pradesh (65), Gujarat (51), Tamil Nadu (38) and Telangana (12). In 47 of the 106 incidents from Maharashtra, a magisterial or judicial inquiry had been initiated. In 14 of the 106, cases had been registered, and in 19 of them, charge sheets had been filed.

The Communist Ghadar Party of India severely condemns the brutal murder of Jayaraj and Bennicks by the Indian state. These custodial deaths once again expose the repressive security apparatus of the Indian State, which instead of providing security to the people from criminals, itself harbours the most barbaric criminals.

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