Even as outrage over the deaths of Jayaraj and Bennix in Thoothukudi continues, a second incident of alleged police custodial violence has emerged in Tamil Nadu’s Tenkasi district.
Kumaresan, a 25-year-old auto driver in Tenkasi, was beaten up at the VK Pudur police station on May 10. Forty-seven days later, he passed away on Saturday night after being in the hospital for around two weeks.
According to Kumaresan’s father Navaneethakrishnan, his son revealed that he was beaten up and assaulted in the station by two policemen, only two weeks before his death. The hospital admission report, which has been accessed by TNM, noted that Kumaresan’s general condition was poor and that he was vomiting blood for two days.
The family filed a complaint against the two policemen of VK Pudur police station — sub-inspector Chandrasekar and constable Kumar — on June 18. However, the first information report or the FIR was registered on June 28, only hours after Kumaresan’s death.
The alleged police custodial assault
Speaking to TNM, Kumaresan’s father Navaneethakrishnan said that on May 8, the police had picked up the father and son in relation to a land dispute. “The police hit my son twice with the lathi at the station. Then they asked me for my Aadhaar card details and a letter to release him. I wrote and gave it to the police and took my son back,” he said.
A day later, the police allegedly spotted Kumaresan and other auto drivers at the auto stand, and an altercation broke out.
“These men (Kumaresan and his friends) were standing and chatting when the police came and said something, to which the men responded. In the argument that ensued, the police confiscated my son’s cellphone worth Rs 17,000 and left,” he said.
According to Navaneethakrishnan, the police asked Kumaresan to come to the police station the next morning, on May 10, at 11 am to collect his phone.
“In the station, Sub-Inspector Chandrasekaran and head constable Kumar attacked him brutally with the lathi. They hit him hard on the ribs, made him lie down and they got on his thighs and stood on them,” he alleged.
A Mariappan, Kumaresan’s uncle, alleged that the policemen tortured Kumaresan by hitting him on his private parts, lower abdomen and buttocks as well.
However, after this incident, Kumaresan did not speak of it to anyone, but was in bad shape, said the father.
When the incident came to light
Nearly a month later, in June, Kumaresan vomited blood and was taken to a local public healthcare centre in VK Pudur. Two days later, Navaneethakrishnan said, they took Kumaresan to a private hospital near Surandai town, where he was admitted.
However, since his condition was not improving, the 25-year-old was transferred to the government hospital in Tirunelveli on the night of June 12, and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. It was only the next day that Kumaresan informed the doctors and his parents of what transpired in the police station on May 10, said his father.
“At the hospital, he told me that the policemen had threatened him to not talk about the incident to anyone outside, and if he breathed a word about this, they would file a case under the Goondas Act on both him and me and put us in jail. So, Kumaresan did not tell this until he was admitted to the hospital. After about three days, he was shifted to ICU, where his condition further deteriorated,” Navaneethakrishnan said.
According to Mariappan, a policeman named Paramasivan came from Surandai police station visited the hospital, and asked Kumaresan’s parents to sign a statement stating that their son had only sustained minor injuries to his arm during police custody, which they refused.
After two weeks in the ICU, Kumaresan passed away on the night of June 27, Saturday, around 8 pm.
According to the hospital admission record, Kumaresan came with an alleged history of assault. While his vitals were normal, his oxygen saturation level stood at 72% (which is considered low) at the time of admission.
Kumaresan complained of breathlessness for four days prior to admission. He also had hematemesis (vomiting blood) for two days. The admission report also noted that Kumaresan’s general condition was poor.
Meanwhile, hospital documents, according to India Today, showed that his kidney and spleen were badly injured.
Body buried for investigation
While an FIR has been registered against the two policemen, Kumaresan's family decided to bury his body and not cremate it as per their customs.
“We had no plans to take the body itself, but police in VK Pudur got some relatives to sign the statement to accept the body. In our caste, we generally cremate the body, but in this case, we buried him because we needed it to be there for any type of investigation in the future,” Mariappan told TNM.
The two policemen, sub-inspector Chandrasekar and constable Kumar have been booked under section 174 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which pertains to doubt regarding the cause of death.
Reports said that following Kumaresan’s death, local residents protested demanding that a case be filed against the policemen.
Incidentally, the family, after Kumaresan told them about the assault, had filed a complaint against the policemen with Tenkasi district Superintendent of Police Sugunasingh on June 18, sent complaints via registered post to the Chief Minister’s cell and the Human Rights Commission on June 19. The family also gave a petition about the issue to the District Collector on June 22.
However, they received no response.
The SP told the New Indian Express that he has demanded that a video of the postmortem be recorded so that the truth behind Kumaresan’s death can be found. He told the newspaper that he is ready to act against anyone who is found guilty.
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