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Custodial deaths of father-son disrupts TN

The duo was arrested in southern Tamil Nadu for violating lockdown restrictions and later died in police custody.

When 58-year-old Jayarajan and his 31-year-old son Bennix were picked by the police in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu on June 19, little did they know that their lives would abruptly end just days later. The father-son duo, who run a woodwork shop and mobile shop in a small town, was picked up for allegedly violating lockdown timings. Their family claims that they were beaten and tortured by the police, which resulted in their deaths on June 22 and 23.

The uproar over this alleged case of police brutality has spread across the state, with protests at various places demanding swift action and traders calling for a shuttering of shops on Wednesday, with over 50,000 establishments heeding the call.

While the police told reporters that prior health conditions were the cause of their deaths, their family says they were perfectly healthy except for small ailments. Two sub-inspectors from the concerned station were suspended and other police officers were transferred.

According to a friend of the family, the father was arrested first and when the son went to the station to inquire, he too was arrested and beaten up. The family has refused to receive the bodies following the autopsy, saying the suspension of the officers wasn’t enough and more appropriate action is required. They allege that the bodies had brutal injury marks, including in their rectum. Their lawyers who had gone to the police station were turned away.

The Madurai branch of the Madras High Court, hearing the case suo moto, has asked the police to submit a report on July 26. The State Human Rights Commission has also demanded a report and asked for the CCTV footage from the police station. The DGP of the state referenced this incident in a circular to his officers, saying the loss of policemen to suspensions or quarantines is putting a strain on the police department, which has already been stretched thin enforcing the strict lockdown due to rising coronavirus cases.

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