'They'd planned a wedding anniversary party': Custodial death victim Sreejith's family

Sreejith was arrested by the Varappuzha police on Saturday night and died on Monday.
'They'd planned a wedding anniversary party': Custodial death victim Sreejith's family
'They'd planned a wedding anniversary party': Custodial death victim Sreejith's family
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They had planned for a celebration on Tuesday. Family and their close circle of friends had been invited.

But instead of celebrating her fifth wedding anniversary, Akhila was left mourning her husband Sreejith’s death.

Family members don’t know how to console this young woman and her three and half year old daughter.

Sreejith was arrested by the Varappuzha police on Saturday night, after KM Vasudevan, a native of Devaswompadam, committed suicide on Friday. 

A gang had assaulted and threatened Vasudevan, and his son Vineesh approached the police after his father committed suicide.

“Sreejith was picked up by the police at night. We knew he had nothing to do with the assault on Vasudevan as he had been home the entire day. We resisted the arrest,” Sreejith’s mother told media.

On Sunday night, Sreejith was admitted to a private hospital where Akhila works. He had complained of severe stomach pain and could not pass urine.

Sreejith’s brothers, Akhila, his father Ramakrishnan, and his father in-law were at the private hospital throughout the time of his hospitalisation. 

“When we were informed that he had passed away, we were in shock. We tried to hide it from our parents and  from Akhila. But Akhila had sensed it herself. I don’t even know who informed our parents,” Renjith, Sreejith’s brother, says.

After an initial assessment, doctors at the hospital had said that Sreejith had injuries in his small intestine. A surgery was performed but Sreejith could not be saved. He passed away on Monday evening.

“My brother was loved by the people here. He would help anyone who was in need. We had planned a good celebration for their wedding anniversary. They had been in love for a few years before getting married," Renjith says.

Sreejith was a daily wage labourer who used to lay tiles on floors.

Apart from the fact that a man who was arrested died when in custody, what has angered the family and neighborhood further is that the police seem to have arrested the wrong Sreejith.

The complainant Vineesh has come forward, stating that his complaint was against another Sreejith, also called Thulasidas. In fact, Vineesh was friends with the Sreejith who passed away because of alleged police brutality. 

"I had taken the name of one Sreejith, but that is someone who lives close to our house. Not the Sreejith the cops arrested. He was my friend and was not involved in threatening my father," Vineesh says. 

“The name of the third accused in the case is Sreejith, but he is known in the area as Thulasidas,” Renjith said. “The police came in a vehicle and dragged away some young men from the locality who were in their homes then. My brother was not even in the accused list. The people who witnessed the police action told me that it was brutal. They dragged these young people and beat them up.  When some people questioned it, the police said they were booking friends of the accused. If that is the case, we are also friends of the complainant. Complainant Vineesh and Sreejith were good friends, they used to go for work together,” fumes Renjith.

Renjith’s ire is on the police who have justified the arrest and washed their hands off the death.

“How is police brutality justified? They did not even know who the accused was. Aren’t they supposed to protect us?” he asks.

Sreejith’s death has created a political storm in Kerala.

“Custodial torture should never be tolerated.  Whoever is responsible, should be punished. This has been happening for centuries. Things have changed a lot but it may take many more years for it to be wiped out. The police force and media should respect the rights of an accused. Some police personnel have the feeling that protecting human rights cost us efficiency,” former DGP Jacob Punnoose told TNM.

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