Even while the deaths of the Sathankulam father-son duo Jayaraj and Bennix has sparked nation-wide outrage, with many demanding strict action against the police officers involved in the case, Tamil Nadu’s Minister for Information and Broadcasting Kadambur Raju said that their deaths cannot be termed as “lock-up deaths”, thereby claiming that custodial violence was not the direct cause of their deaths.
Kadambur Raju was speaking to reporters after visiting the family of Ganeshamurthy, a 29-year-old who died by suicide in Ettayapuram. The family has accused the police of assaulting Ganeshamurthy, which they said was the cause for his suicide.
In his controversial statement, the Minister said, “Lock-up death means the detainee is attacked inside the police station and then dies. In this case, the two were questioned at the station, they were taken to the Magistrate from there, then transferred to the sub-jail and two days later the incident took place.”
Earlier the Minister had visited Jayaraj’s family and handed over the state government’s relief amount to them.
Thoothukudi Member of Parliament Kanimozhi raised questions over Kadambur Raju’s statement. “CM says deaths were due to breathlessness. Now, his Minister questions whether these are “lockup deaths”! All deaths under custody of police or judiciary are custodial deaths. Is the Minister saying there was no torture in lockup?” she tweeted.
She also accused the Minister of sabotaging the investigation with such statements, saying, “Were not injuries reported by doctors? Our apprehension is that the CM and his Cabinet are now actively sabotaging the investigation by making these statements.”
CM says deaths were due to breathlessness. Now, his Minister questions whether these are "lockup deaths"!— Kanimozhi (கனிமொழி) (@KanimozhiDMK) June 28, 2020
All deaths under custody of police or judiciary are custodial deaths.
Is the Minister saying there was no torture in lockup?
Since the day the case gained attention, the police have maintained that the deaths were not due to custodial violence. On the day Jarayaj died, Thoothukudi Superintendent of Police Arun Balagopalan had claimed that both father and son had other health issues and that was the reason for their deaths.
Contrary to Minister Kadambur Raju’s statement, both hospital and jail records have indicated that both Jayaraj and Bennix had multiple injuries on their bodies. Quite a few eyewitness accounts have emerged confirming that the two were repeatedly thrashed by the police.