Three men from Ambasamudram in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu have alleged that they were subjected to custodial torture and their teeth were knocked out by Assistant Suprendindent of Police, Balveer Singh IPS. In a video, one of the men can be heard saying that he and his brothers had gone to confront a group of people who hit their friend. But the police arrested six of them and three others from the opposite group and took them to the police station. Chellappa said, “At the police station, Balveer Singh was wearing white gloves. I did not know why but he called me in and while the other police officers held my hand, he knocked out my teeth with a stone. My lips and gums were also injured.”
In the video, Chellappa goes on to say that his brothers and the people from the opposite group suffered the same fate. He added that the police kicked one of his brothers in the chest and sexually assaulted him as well. Chellappa said, “ My brother was newly married. Now he is unable to get up from his bed because of the torture. The incident happened nearly ten days ago but my brother is still unable to walk without additional support.”
Alleging the police threatened them before producing them in the court, Chellappa said, “They [the police] told us that in the court, we must not tell that we were beaten up in the police station. If we were asked about our injuries, we were asked to tell the court that we had either fallen from our bikes or fallen from a tree while plucking coconuts.” He added that if he and his brothers informed the court about what happened, they feared that the case would have been extended by 10 or 15 days. Chellappa claimed that the police even knew that they were about to film the video because they began calling them and questioning their whereabouts half an hour before they began filming.
Chellappa, his brothers and others detained with them are however not the only people who have raised such an allegation. TNM also spoke to a man named Vedha Narayanan (49), who is a native of Ambasamudram. He alleges that he was also subjected to custodial torture at the VK Puram police station in Ambasamudram district where he had gone regarding a family dispute. “There was a dispute between me and my wife and recently there was a quarrel between us. She took away my phone and asked me to come and collect it at the police station. When I reached the police station, I was asked to wait and the authorities told me that a senior police officer wanted to meet me. After 45 minutes, I was taken to the first floor, they asked me to remove my clothes and even before I realised what had happened the officer plucked my teeth using a cutting plier,” Vedha told TNM. This police station too comes under the jurisdiction of Ambasamudram taluk.
After multiple allegations of custodial torture surfaced, the Tamil Nadu government transferred Balveer Singh IPS from his post and has been put on a compulsory waiting list. The move came after Tirunelveli Collector KP Karthikeyan ordered an enquiry by revenue officials. Balveer Singh is a 2019 batch IPS officer from Haryana. The issue came to light when three survivors spoke on video about their experience which began doing the rounds on social media and a complaint was lodged by an advocate.
An officer told TNM that a Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) level enquiry has been ordered and a summons has been issued to the victims. “The Collector has ordered the RDO to submit his report in three days.”
Speaking to TNM, Advocate Maharajan of Nethaji Subash Sena said he lodged a complaint with the concerned officials after gathering evidence and speaking to the victims. “The victims of police torture are scared of repercussions. We are also planning to approach the Madras High Court seeking direction for a detailed inquiry,” he said.
Speaking to TNM, Sudha Ramalingam, an advocate and human rights activist, said, “It is a serious human rights violation. An officer trained to be in the Indian Police Service has to be a role model to his fellow policemen. An FIR [First Information Report] should be registered and criminal prosecution should be initiated with no delay. The state government must immediately give all necessary medical aid, and ensure that the victims get dental replacements and interim compensation. The officer should be suspended from service and not just transferred during the pendency of the investigation. A fair and speedy investigation, prosecution, trial and conviction are the need of the hour.”
(With inputs from Shabbir Ahmed)