"Sreejeev is a seasoned mobile thief. Why have sympathy for him?"
"He had several cases against him, including for shooting nude visuals of a woman and threatening her. People are supporting his brother now and making a hero out of him."
"Policemen are also humans who have families. Why are innocent policemen being targeted unjustly?"
"Tomorrow, Govindachamy's brother will also start protesting on the roads, demanding justice for him!"
These are a few "arguments" that have been floated on social media, against the massive public campaign demanding #JusticeForSreejith that saw thousands of people gather in the streets of Kerala's capital city recently.
Sreejith has been on a peaceful protest for 767 days now, demanding justice for his brother Sreejeev, who died in police custody in 2015.
As online and offline campaigns under #JusticeForSreejith gain momentum, there is tremendous pressure on the government and the police department to take action against the accused police officials.
But while the support for Sreejith and Sreejeev continues to grow on one end, there is a malicious campaign, trying to compare Sreejeev to Govindachamy on the other. Govindachamy is the man convicted for raping a young woman named Soumya on a train.
The active counter campaign, especially in the form of anonymous forwards on Whatsapp, are clearly aimed at putting down the massive support Sreejith and his family continue to receive. From personal attacks, to justifying Sreejeev's death, to questioning the credibility of Sreejith's protest, the slew of messages being circulated on WhatsApp have it all.
The tone of one of the painstakingly written notes circulated among journalists is aimed at slandering the brothers. The note wants to “dispel all the misconceptions" that Sreejith is a victim. Because, "Why would you support him if you knew the truth?"
"People on social media are supporting Sreejith only because they do not know the reality. The post-mortem report has clearly stated that Sreejeev consumed poison and died. Sreejeev has robbed mobile phones worth Rs 2.5 lakh. How can he then be innocent?" the message reads.
(What the message conveniently twists is the fact that a postmortem report cannot ascertain if someone drank poison willingly, or was forced to).
The ‘pervert, liar, criminal’ narrative
One of the messages accuses Sreejeev of being a pervert and of cheating women. They also accuse Sreejith of staging the protest with an eye on getting a government job.
The message also details how the Parassala police officials narrowed down on Sreejeev and arrested him in the mobile theft case.
"It is Sreejith who told the Parassala police that his brother was a criminal. The same Sreejith, who is now protesting with the motive of landing a government job," the message reads.
(Never mind that no civilised society would award the death penalty for mobile theft.)
"Sreejeev died at the medical college hospital while undergoing treatment. How can that be a custodial death then? After his arrest, he consumed Furudan posion that he carried in his underwear, while inside the cell. The police who realised it immediately took him to the hospital," the messages reads.
Another message rubbishes the 2016 inquiry report by the Kerala Police Complaints Authority, which had found that Sreejeev died of custodial violence. These messages question why a compensation of Rs 10 lakh was given to a "criminal's" family.
While the Neyyantinkara magistrate who visited Sreejeev at the hospital to record his statements, and the forensic doctor who performed post-mortem on him did not see any wounds on Sreejeev, how did the Complaints Authority see it, the message asked.
‘Innocent policemen’ claim
Another message addressed to Sreejith had a generous dose of advice for him. It read:
"Sreejith, you better end your protest and go back home. Innocent policemen too have families. We will also put up another protest pandal and lay beside where you are!"
When TNM asked Sreejith on Monday about the mudslinging campaign directed at Sreejeev's character, Sreejith laughed.
"The court has to decide whether a person is bad, or if he is a criminal or a thief. It is the court that has to decide what sort of punishment should be meted out to him. It is not upon me or any other person. Whatever my brother was, they should have produced him in court. They should have studied what the issue is,” he said.
“From my interaction with them, I know that there are a section of policemen who are heartless and will go to any extent and not cooperate with us. I have been protesting here, fasting for many days, yet they did not budge. These policemen who have done all this to us, are capable of propagating anything about my brother," he added.