Police Brutality is Common. After Jayaraj & Bennicks, an Auto Driver’s Death is Blamed on Cops

Social Commentary

Police Brutality is Common. After Jayaraj & Bennicks, an Auto Driver’s Death is Blamed on Cops

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

Policemen beating up unarmed civilians is not an uncommon sight in India. But every few years, there comes a case that shakes you to the core. Last week, the horrific deaths of the father-son duo P Jayaraj and J Bennicks because of alleged police torture in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin left the nation seething. Unfortunately, this is not the only incident being reported from the state.

Now the family of a 30-year-old auto rickshaw driver from Tenkasi district has alleged that he died on Saturday after facing custodial torture. N Kumaresan was battling for life at the Tirunelveli Government Medical College and Hospital after he was brutally assaulted by cops at the Veerakeralamputhur police station.

Like Jayaraj and Bennicks, who were picked up for not following lockdown restrictions, the complaint against Kumaresan was far from grave. After a complaint was filed against him over a property dispute, the auto driver was called to the police station for an inquiry on May 8. Sub-inspector Chandrashekar slapped Kumaresan and verbally abused him, his father A Navaneethakrishnan alleges.

The next day while Kumaresan was standing at the auto rickshaw stand an argument broke out between him and the cop. “My son said both the police and him are in khaki. That was his only mistake,” Navaneethakrishnan told The Times of India.

Kumaresan was reportedly summoned once again to the police station on May 10 where he was brutally assaulted by the sub-inspector and a constable. According to his father, he was kicked on the genitals and the chest with their boots on, punched on his back, and beaten up with a lathi.

On June 10, Kumaresan complained of uneasiness and vomited blood. He was admitted to a private hospital following which he was moved to a government facility where he died.

Tension gripped Tenkasi as his body was handed over to relatives on Sunday. Protests erupted in the town with demand for a judicial probe into the death.

A case of suspicious death has been registered against the sub-inspector and constable. The investigation will be reportedly carried out by a police officer from another district.

But what India needs is not just a probe or a suspension of police officers. It needs a change in system where police officials are held more accountable, and are sensitised.

The problem is all too common. Five custodial deaths are reported in India every day, according to the “India Annual Report on Torture”.

In 2019, custodial torture claimed the lives of 1,731 people in India; the year before that the number was at 1,966. The deaths of Jayaraj and Bennicks and Kumaresan are not isolated incidents then. They are just the tip of the iceberg.