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Thoothukudi custodial deaths; Justice for Jeyaraj and Fenix

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What happened with George Floyd of the USA was tragic. He was assaulted by a policeman and was later pronounced dead. It led the whole #BlackLivesMatter movement again as the deceased was a Black man, and the policeman was white. And not much has been changed in India. A recent case of police brutality and custodial death in the southernmost state of Tamil Nadu is very shocking and worth thinking about.

P Jeyaraj, 58, and his son Fenix, 38, were running their mobile accessories shop in the Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu, just like the typical day. But little did they know that keeping their shop opened a little longer could cost them their lives. According to the police, they violated the lockdown norms, so the police personnel who were on their routine patrol took the duo to the police station.

jeyaraj fenix police

According to the family members, both the men were kept in police custody the whole night, where they were being beaten brutally. And the next thing they know is that on the evening of June 22, Fenix died in a hospital, and on the morning of June 23, his father breathed his last in the same hospital.

The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court took suo moto cognizance of the matter and directed the Kovilpatti judicial magistrate to go to the jail where the incident had taken place and photograph the administrative, medical records and collect all the CCTV records related to the case.

So far, two senior inspectors have been suspended while departmental action is also being taken against two chief guards of the jail, as reported by the Superintendent of Police (SP) Thoothukudi in his status report to the Madras High Court.

The custodial death of father-son duo has led to a massive public uproar. People took to the streets in protest. The Trade unions and activists are asking the judiciary to make a reform and punish the policemen responsible for both the men’s death.

This issue has indeed started the wave against police assault at a local level. In a similar case in the USA, where George Floyd faced police brutality, the entire globe began a storm of an online revolution.

People on social media have been vocal about the fate of two men. #JusticeforJeyarajandFenix and #EndPoliceBrutality are trending on twitter where the citizens are demanding the system to change the hard part of policing in India. They want the policemen to be charged with the murder of two innocent lives. They are calling the police, “ Rakshaks turned Bhakshaks.” “It is not acceptable to see our protectors turning into criminals,” statements by Net-citizens. Also, they have been asking questions like “ Who do you call when police murders?”.

Celebrities, cricketers, and political figures have condemned this act on twitter. Kajal Aggarwal, a famous South Indian and Bollywood actress, wrote, “ this is gut-wrenching, sickening and intolerable….”.

Rahul Gandhi, Congress leader, criticizes the police action as “.. a terrible crime.” He further adds that “ It’s a tragedy when our protectors turn into oppressors..”

Singer and RJ Suchitra on her Instagram handle posted a video asking the people not to keep their mouths shut against the government’s decision to suspend the responsible policemen. She explained how the police inflicted pain upon the father-son duo and requested people to share her story.

The reports given by the Ministry of State for Home Affairs declares that 427 people died in police custody between 2016 and 2019. A Human Rights report of 2016 states that India fails to end custodial police killings. The report further said that the police blame most of the deaths on illness, suicide, or natural causes. But in many cases, family members allege that the deaths were the result of torture and assault.” Nothing can stop you now!

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