Caste angle to murder of TN traders? Catholic Union demands judicial probe

SI Raghuganesh is also alleged to be siding with his caste community which is in conflict with the Christian and Hindu Nadars who are the majority in the district. Both groups are designated Backward Communities

The All India Catholic Union has demanded a judicial enquiry by a High Court Judge into the brutal custodial torture of a father and son of the Nadar Christian community in Sathankulam town near Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu.

In a statement issued by its National Spokesperson Dr john Dayal, AICU said “The town police have been complicit in other custodial deaths in recent months, apart from fomenting caste clashes. The enquiry must also go into the conduct of the local magistrate who failed to see the trauma of the victims while giving them into further police custody, which eventually led to their death.”

The police brutalization of a small shopkeeper, Jayaraj (59), and his son Emmanuel Benicks (31), has shocked the nation which is still to come to terms with police atrocities in other states which have gone unchecked under the cover of the Covid curfew.

The father and son were arrested on 19 June after they allegedly had an altercation with Sathankulam police. They had been beaten, brutally tortured, sodomized with rods. Magistrate P Saravanan did not bother to see their condition, and remanded them to police custody on July 20. Bleeding profusely, they were taken to hospital almost on the verge of death.

Benicks died at Kovilpatti Government Hospital on the night of June 22, Jayaraj died the next morning at the same hospital. Jayaraj was accused of keeping his shop open beyond the Covid curfew hours and his son was arrested when he tried to protect his father from the blows of the police.

The Madras high court has ordered a magisterial enquiry against Sub inspectors Balakrishnan, Raghuganesh and their boss Inspector Sridhar. This is patently not sufficient considering the gravity of the case and the fact that there have been other custodial deaths in the town.

SI Raghuganesh is also alleged to siding with his caste community which is in conflict with the Christian and Hindu Nadars who are the majority in the district. Both groups are designated Backward Communities. The SI and the cirlce inspector are also said to be close to the local RSS unit. The CBI also has a murky track record investigating cases of murder against the police.

The Tamil Nadu police, like the police of UP, Delhi, Haryana, and Gujarat, has a gruesome record of brutality and custodial violence. Caste arrogance has been tinged with communalism in the last decade. The Dharam Vira Commission on police reforms report is now almost half a century old.

But successive governments, at the centre and in the states, have found an aggressive police which does not care for human rights to be a useful instrument in suppressing dissent. The dystopian situation created by the Corona Virus pandemic, and the lock-downs enforced through a harsh curfew, has given more powers to the police.

All India Catholic Union president, Lancy D’Cunha said “A modern nation needs a modernized police force. It must show the diversity of communities that exist in the country. It must be trained in modern forensic sciences instead of using third degree methods on suspects, innocent or guilty, to solve crimes. Above all, policemen and women must be taught to respect human rights guaranteed to all people under the Constitution of India. The police also need better housing humane working hours and an opportunity to grow professionally.”

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