On August 23, 43-year-old Martin from Sathankulam in Thoothukudi district, was out shopping for groceries when he received a worrying phone call from his wife. It was close to 7 pm and in an urgent whisper she said the police were waiting for him at their front door. Martin, a driver by profession, immediately rushed back, desperate to know why the men in khaki had arrived at his doorstep.
But instead of answers, what awaited him was brutal assault, abuse and hospitalisation.
"As soon as I got back, the policemen began to hit me, pushed me into a waiting vehicle and sped off. I thought I would get some answers once we reached the station. Instead, we drove past the Sathankulam station and they took me to the old police quarters behind the local government hospital," says Martin. "Four policemen then assaulted me through the night, kicking and hitting me till I nearly collapsed," he alleges.
According to Martin, the four policemen - Inspector Xavier, Sub Inspector Raja, a constable Sabapathy and the inspector's driver Chinnadurai used their boots to inflict injuries on his hands. They then dragged him across the quarters causing his knees to bleed and repeatedly hit the small of his back with their elbows. This incident took place in Thoothukudi just two months after the deaths of father-son duo Jayaraj and Bennix, who were assaulted by the Sathankulam police, leading to nationwide uproar.
Martin's family, in the meantime, unable to find him in the station, approached the district magistrate who asked that he be produced in front of him.
"But the police claimed I was not with them. On the morning of August 24, I couldn't walk and was breathless, so they took me to the Thoothukudi government hospital. They told the magistrate I was injured after falling down and was undergoing treatment," he says.
Martin however finally managed to find why he was arrested in the first place. He had borrowed money from a neighbour and when he couldn't return it, the duo got into a shouting match on the phone. He admits to abusing and threatening the neighbour on the phone, a recording of which was given to the police. He had been booked under Section 294(B) (Sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place) and 506(2) (criminal intimidation)of the Indian Penal Code.
(Injuries Martin suffered)
"But instead of calling me for an investigation, they resorted to violence," he alleges. "In the hospital, the police told the workers that they can't give me any food and only water. I was starved for two days. They said it is enough if he is just alive," he alleges.
On August 28, he was finally produced before the Srivaikundam magistrate, who was shocked at his physical state.
"Before I was taken to court, the sub inspector Raja said he will shoot me if I tell the magistrate what happened. But I think the magistrate himself immediately understood," says Martin.
"I was produced at 7 pm and the magistrate began a complete inquiry. He took me and first gave me some food because I was so weak. I told him everything that happened and he questioned my wife and brothers too before letting me out on bail," he adds.
For his family, the entire week was traumatic, with Martin being dragged away to seeing him as a bloody mess in the hospital.
"I thought I won't see my husband alive again," says Saroja, Martin's wife. "I saw them dragging my husband away and the next time I saw him he was injured in a hospital. He is unable to breathe or even urinate. I thought, like Bennix and Jayaraj, they will kill him too," she adds, her voice breaking.
Their 10-year-old son, meanwhile, fainted at the sight of his father being beaten by the police.
"I was helpless, holding the limp body of my son as my husband was being dragged away," Saroja laments. " I am still scared and can't stop crying when I see my husband. He is struggling to even breathe," she adds.
Martin is currently admitted to the Sathankulam government hospital for treatment and is suffering from multiple internal injuries. TNM has reached out to the Thoothukudi Superintendent of Police for comment.