13 years on, mother of Kerala custodial death victim still waits for justice

‘No mother should go through the agony I did’, says Prabhavati.
13 years on, mother of Kerala custodial death victim still waits for justice
13 years on, mother of Kerala custodial death victim still waits for justice
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Even as the custodial death of Sreejith in Aluva, Kerala, triggered massive public outrage, 67-year-old Prabhavathi Amma is still waiting for justice to be served to her son. Prabhavathi’s son, Udayakumar died in 2005 after being subjected to torture in custody in Thiruvananthapuram.

26-year-old Udayakumar, Prabhavathi’s son, had gone to a scrap shop on September 28, 2005, at Karamana for work but never returned. Prabhavathi was anxious about her son’s absence but was consoled —  by her neighbours and by the teachers at the school where she used to work as a member of the cleaning staff — that he would return. She went to work on September 29, only to be visited by police personnel at 10 am, bearing the news of her son’s demise.

“I informed my neighbours and the teachers at school that he didn’t come back. Everyone consoled me saying that he might be caught up with work and would return next morning. Instead, I received news that my son had been killed and that his frozen body was at the mortuary. I don’t know when he breathed his last. I was awaiting my son’s return when he was dead,” she says.

Why was Udayakumar taken into custody?

On September 28, 2005, the Fort Police in Thiruvananthapuram picked up Udayakumar and his friend Suresh Kumar when they were sitting at the Sreekanteswaram Park in the city. Suresh was involved in a case of theft and since some money was also found on Udayakumar, both of them were apprehended.

They were allegedly subjected to brutal torture at the police station, and the injuries Udayakumar sustained is what led to his death. It is one of the most sensational cases of custodial tortures in the state.

Udayakumar’s death is alleged to be a case of urutti kola, a practice of ‘rolling’ a heavy wooden log over the body of an accused —  a method of torture allegedly practiced by the police. Such custodial deaths are called urutti kola.

“The police found Rs 4020 from his pocket. It was not money my son stole from anywhere. That was what he had left over from the bonus he got for Onam. Even if someone did commit a crime, the proper way is to ensure that the law takes its course. Who gave them the right to beat him up? How were they able to face their children after committing a heinous act like this?” Prabhavathi Amma asks.

Since the day she received the news of her son’s death, Prabhavathi hasn’t stepped out of the house except to visit court or the nearby temple. She sleeps less, cooks less, and has lost the ability to control her emotions.

Udayakumar’s post-mortem examination revealed that he sustained 22 injuries, which included injuries he sustained because an iron pipe was rolled on him.

“Earlier, just the mention of urutti kola used to break my heart. Now, it seems like my heart freezes when I hear those words. I have been seeing and hearing reports on the recent custodial tortures, even though I have been praying that no mother should go through the agony that I did. The police subject poor people to this while the big criminals are let off. The government suspends the accused policemen for three months and in the fourth month, they come back without any guilt. The policemen take utmost care of their own children. Why do they do this to others? Not that there are no good policemen, but there are criminals too who should be eliminated from service,” she says, clutching a piece of paper that has the date of her son’s death written on it.

“That day life had stopped for me as well. I haven’t stepped out anywhere after my son’s death except to court and the Devi temple which is very near. That was the last Onam I celebrated,” she says.

Prabhavathi Amma’s only solace after Udayakumar’s death is her brother. She lost her parents when she was a child, and was abandoned by her husband when she was pregnant with Udayakumar.

“When my child was young, he had gone to his father to ask for money to repair his cycle, which he was denied. He never went to him again. I lived for his son when he was alive, and I am still living for his son — to get those who killed him punished. My son is with me. Even on his last day, when he was dressing up to go to work, he asked me for my opinion on his shirt. We would always eat dinner together. My son never liked that I went to work, as he wanted me to rest. But it was my desire to buy a house of our own, and I thought that if I also work, I can help my son with the money,” she says.

The case

Prabhvathi Amma now lives in a house, which the government gave her 11 years ago. She and Udayakumar used to live at Kunnumpurath, near Karamana in a rented house.

In 2005, the Crime Branch arrested three police constables — K Jithakumar, S V Sreekumar and K Soman — accused of murder, torture and illegal detention. The witness in the case later turned hostile, and the accused policemen were granted bail.

In 2007, the Central Bureau of Investigation took over the investigation after a High Court directive, which came in response to a petition filed by Prabhavathi Amma.

In 2010, the CBI filed its chargesheet in the case, arraigning 14 police personnel, including a Deputy Superintendent of Police and a Circle Inspector.

In 2016, the High Court directed the state government to pay an interim compensation of Rs 10 lakh to her.

The CBI Special Court is yet to pronounce the verdict.

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