Continuing lockup deaths are rocking Tamil Nadu as the DMK government looks the other way. 8 people have died while in police custody since the DMK government took over. DMK had led protests and organised candle vigils when Christian father-son duo Jayaraj and Fennix died due to police torture. Their death was reported even by the English media and gained attention at the national level. But the current lock-up deaths haven’t even been discussed in Tamil media’s prime-time debates.
In August 2021, Sathyavanan (35), a history-sheeter was taken into custody by Thanjavur police in connection with a theft. It is said that his fingerprints matched the ones taken from the spot of the incident. He died in hospital after allegedly being admitted as he complained of having chest pain. Police said that he fell on the ground and injured himself and claimed that the had withdrawal symptoms as he was a drug addict. However, Sathyavanan’s mother said that police called her to inform that her son has been admitted to the hospital as he was Covid-19 positive.
In December 2021, Manikandan, a youngster from a village in Ramanathapuram lost his life a few hours after being sent home from the police station. His mother accused the police of picking up her son when he was on his way to buy manure for their agricultural field. He was reportedly beaten and dragged to the police station. Later police called her mother asking her to take Manikandan home. When she arrived at the police station he was unstable and kept murmuring that police beat him up.
He died a few hours later and his body was taken to the government hospital. The mother alleged that post-mortem was conducted without following the guidelines and that police torture is the cause of her son’s death. She filed a petition in the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court which observed that police failed to follow the guidelines issued by the court when a person dies in a few hours after being released from custody. It also ordered a second post-mortem.
Police claim that Manikandan was picked up because he didn’t stop the vehicle when asked to and that his activities seemed suspicious. However, a local Communist functionary who knew Manikandan said that he was a sportsperson aiming to join the police or army force.
Adding to the above list of custodial deaths, even the death of a disabled man Prabhakaran in Salem didn’t create as much furor as that of the Christian father-son duo. The 45 year old man and his wife were arrested by the police in connection with a theft case. After being released Prabahakaran faced health issues and died in the hospital. His kin alleged custodial torture and 3 cops were suspended based on the SP’s recommendation. Prabhakaran appears to have belonged to a marginalised community as ‘Dalit’ party Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi staged a protest demanding justice for his death.
In May 2022, another man belonging to the SC community was tortured by police as a result of which he died. Vignesh and his friend were apprehended by the Chennai police and the autorickshaw in which they traveled was seized as police found drugs in the vehicle. He developed seizures the next morning and was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Inititally police department denied the custodial death charge, but later video footage of policemen chasing and beating Vignesh on the road became public. The autopsy report also revealed that he sustained 16 injuries and 6 polimen were arrested by the CB-CID police.
In another gruesome lock-up death incident in May 2022, Thangamani, a 45 year old Kurava (vanvasi) man living in Tiruvannamalai lost his life. Police picked him up on the charges of selling illicit liquor. The next evening he was admitted in a hospital after he had seizures and died there the same night. Police denied charges of torture in this case as well, but the autopsy report revealed that he had fractures and injuries while he was in police custody. The investigation was transferred to CB-CID.
In June 2022, there were 2 custodial deaths in 2 consecutive days, but even those failed to sake the conscience of the lapdog media and the so-called social justice warriors. But it shook the police department which issued SOP for handling of the accused. Rajasekhar, a history-sheeter in Chennai and Siva Subramanyam, who worked at a cycle repair shop in Nagapattinam died while they were in judicial custody. As per police personnel’s account, Rajasekhar had allegedly complained of uneasiness and developed health complications as a result of which he reportedly died.
In Siva Subramanyam’s case police claimed that he was an alcoholic and had withdrawal symptoms. They said that he had health conditions like epilepsy which could have made him “ill”. he was arrested for allegedly assaulting a woman and her son.
Even as ADMK and BJP questioned the government about continuing custodial deaths and the government’s inaction in reigning in the police department, the news of another youth killing himself due to torture at police’s hands emerged. Ajith, a 22 year old youth from Kanyakumari died by suicide allegedly after being tortured at the police station. His family alleges that the youth took the extreme step as he was tortured at the police station in Kulasekaram where he went to sign as a part of conditional bail. But police claim that they have nothing to do with his death.
It should be noted that all these victims are Hindus and from the marginalised communities in some cases. DMK and its allies claim to work for the upliftment of such people but it is in their rule they face abuse and harassment the most. TN CM MK Stalin had shared a review after watching Jai Bhim movie in which facts were twisted to malign Hindus. He said that he couldn’t sleep after watching the movie. He said the movie made him speechless and sleepless. It is about a Kurava man being arrested by the police on fake charges and dying due to police torture while in custody.
Much hype was made about the movie and CM even staged some dramatic events during which he went to the house of a Narikuravar woman and vaxed eloquent about empowering them. But in reality such marginalised people are mercilessly crushed like insects in his rule. Yet DMK has the audacity to dream about taking the ‘Dravidian Model’ to the national level.