765 days of protest: Kerala's Sreejith still seeks answers for brother's death

The young man has been protesting for 765 days but has been left disappointed as the CBI has refused to take up the case.
765 days of protest: Kerala's Sreejith still seeks answers for brother's death
765 days of protest: Kerala's Sreejith still seeks answers for brother's death
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As the day breaks and Thiruvananthapuram city gets to business as usual, Sreejith wakes up to see the sight of children going to school, men and women walking past him to their workplaces, with their bags in hand. Others zoom past him in vehicles of various shapes and sizes.

As the afternoon sun blazes, Sreejith watches the busy roads get busier. And as the day comes to a close, it is the tall street lights that keep him company. Until the next day break. 

The day, or for that matter, the night, holds no relevance for Sreejith, a native of Parassala in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram.

He has been protesting outside the Kerala Secretaraiat for 765 days, demanding justice for his younger brother, who was killed in police custody. 

During the day, Sreejith sits on a mat, leaning against the secretariat compound wall. He has pasted many newspaper cuttings on the wall.

In his lone battle, it is a grey bag that has been with him from day 1- the bag in which he carries all the documents related to his brother Sreejeev's death. 

"It's no suicide like the police claimed it to be. It was murder," he tells TNM.

Sreejeev was picked up by the Parassala police in May 2014 on allegations of theft. Days after this, he breathed his last at a hospital. While the police claimed that Sreejeev had consumed poison, Sreejith alleges that the police murdered his brother.

Two years later in 2016, the Police Complaints Authority found the police version to be false and came to the conclusion that Sreejeev had indeed died of custodial torture. The probe found that Circle Inspector Gopakumar and ASI Philipose thrashed Sreejeev and made him drink poison. The Police Complaints Authority also said that these policemen had the support of two civil officers.

In September 2016, the Kerala government asked the Director General of Police to hand over the probe to a Special Investigations Team. 

Although Sreejith and his mother Ramani got Rs 10 lakh as compensation from the state government, Sreejith has been protesting since 2015, demanding action against the police officers responsible for his brother's death. 

In November, Sreejith received a communication from the Home department, informing him about a CBI inquiry into Sreejeev's death. But it came to light just this week that the CBI had refused to probe Sreejeev's death and had informed the Kerala government on December 12, 2017.

The letter recieved by the government on January 2, 2017 said that the CBI believed that this was not a case of 'rare and exceptional nature warranting an investigation by the CBI'. 

For Sreejith, it is disappoinment once again.

In the last 765 days, Sreejith has gone on hunger strikes many times. Although his health has deteriorated drastically, his spirits haven't.

In the last few months, TNM has consistently covered Sreejith's struggle. The last week has seen many prominent voices speaking up for this young man after news of CBI's refusal came. Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar has written to the Home Minister. “In the wake of the issue raising immense public interest on humanitarian grounds, I solicit your urgent intervention in the matter by way of expediting the CBI investigation and enquiry of the alleged ‘custodial death’ of Sreejeev.” MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar wrote in his letter.

Actor Nivin Pauly too has demanded justice for Sreejith.

Sreejith was working as a helper in a studio in Thiruvananthapuram, when Sreejeev passed away.

"My elder brother met with an accident a few months ago and is unable to go for work. Mother too has not been keeping very well. Our relatives have been constantly helping us financially," Sreejith says. 

(All photographs by Sreekesh Raveendran Nair)

This is an updated version of an earlier story.

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