Twenty-five-year-old Vignesh was taken into custody by the G5 Secretariat Colony police station on Monday, April 18. Police said that he had a seizure the next day and died while being taken to the hospital.

Chennai custodial death victim Vignesh (right) and his brother Vinod
news Custodial death Friday, April 22, 2022 - 13:53

In a shocking twist in the custodial death of 25-year-old Vignesh in Chennai, it has come to light that the family has been paid Rs 1 lakh, in a bid to pacify them and settle the case. Vignesh’s elder brother Vinod told TNM that the family was paid Rs 1 lakh by Vignesh’s employer who told them that he sourced the money from the police. Vignesh, who used to offer horse rides at the city’s Marina Beach, was taken into custody by the G5 Secretariat Colony police station, along with Suresh, a construction worker, on the night of Monday, April 18. Police said that the next day Vignesh had a seizure and died while being taken to the hospital.

“The police did not give the money directly. Vignesh worked with a man called Ranjith for years in his horse stall. He called and told us that your brother has toiled with me a lot. He said I will get whatever money I can from the inspector and give it to you, and use that for the cremation. He gave us Rs 1 lakh,” Vinod told TNM.

Vinod also said that the police took Vignesh’s body from Kilpauk Medical College Hospital mortuary to Krishnampet crematorium and insisted that the body should be cremated. However, the family stuck to their stand that according to their rituals, a dead body is buried not cremated. With the police not relenting, they approached the judicial magistrate Yashwantrao Ingersol who is heading the judicial probe, and the magistrate in turn asked the police to allow the family to conduct the funeral as per their traditions. Vignesh’s body was buried at the Krishnampet graveyard.

“There was massive security at Krishnampet crematorium, police personnel were in large numbers and did not allow many people to attend the funeral,” said Vignesh’s friend who attended the funeral amidst tight security.

Eyewitnesses said that both Vinod and Vignesh’s younger brother Surya were brought in a police vehicle to the crematorium and the police personnel accompanied them out of the crematorium after the final rites were conducted.

As Vignesh hails from a Scheduled Caste community, the custodial death will also have to be probed under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Karpagam, whose son Suresh too was arrested along with Vignesh and remanded to judicial custody, confirmed that the family was asked to cremate the body and not bury it. “Vignesh’s younger and older brother were held inside. Their aunt’s daughter asked for the body, but the police wouldn't give it. They said they would directly bring the body to the crematorium. They boarded the body in a vehicle and the brothers were asked to sit by the body. He’s the third son, the police said don’t bury him. Cremate him.”

According to Karpagam, after Vignesh’s funeral on Wednesday evening, the police personnel informed Vinod’s family members that the Judge has asked them to pay Rs 1 lakh and requested them to not pursue the issue. “They wanted the family members to stick to the version that Vignesh died due to breathlessness. They promised the family that they will be given Rs 1 lakh, which will be delivered to them by tomorrow or day after,” Karpagam added.

Several questions are being raised over the manner in which the Chennai police has handled the custodial death case. TNM earlier reported how the Chennai police did not allow anyone except Vignesh’s elder brother and younger brother to see the body at the morgue. “They did not allow his relatives or friends to see the body,” said Vignesh’s sister. The police also refused to hand over the body to family members and took it straight from the mortuary after the post mortem to the crematorium on Thursday evening.

“I want to tell the Chief Minister that this should not happen to anyone. Neither to well-off people nor to poor people like us. Is there no humanity? For poor people like us, look at how he is beaten. If he committed a thousand mistakes, punish him, how can he be beaten to death? Will you beat a deputy commissioner or commissioner to death? If we were well-off people, we could have created a huge ruckus. Four of us were kept in different corners. There were four sub inspectors with us the whole time. We were not allowed to speak to anyone, not even to each other. We weren’t allowed to make calls. We were not allowed to talk to you also. Just because there is no one to speak up for us,” Vinod said.

TNM visited Pattinapakkam, Nadukuppam, Mattan Kuppam to locate Vignesh’s family members. Surprisingly, Vignesh’s brother Veera who was living in a rented house in Srinivasanagar in Pattinapakkam had vacated his house all of a sudden on Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a complaint has been lodged with the National Commission for Human Rights by Chennai-based activist A Shankar seeking a thorough probe into the incident.

The Chennai police claimed that Vignesh and Suresh were travelling in an auto that was stopped during the routine night checks at Kellys. The police claimed that the duo had injury marks on their body and when questioned they brandished a knife and threatened the police personnel. The police had to overpower them and take them to the police station. On 19th morning, Vignesh developed health complications and had a seizure and passed away on the way to the hospital.

Vignesh’s family members and friends have disputed the claims made by the police.

When TNM contacted Deputy Commissioner (Kilpauk) Dr R Karthikeyan, he denied the allegation that the family was not allowed to see Vignesh’s body and said that he cannot comment further as the case is under magisterial inquiry.

Update: Chennai custodial death case transferred to CB-CID

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