In Media

Indian policemen arrested over ‘George Floyds of India’ custody deaths, The Coronavirus Pandemic

The Coronavirus Pandemic 
02 July 2020


  • A father and his son who were arrested for breaking coronavirus lockdown regulations were allegedly subjected to a brutal thrashing that led to their deaths
  • India’s National Human Rights Commission said nearly 15 cases of custodial violence and torture were reported daily on average
India has arrested five policemen over the deaths of a father and son in custody, a senior investigating official said on Thursday, following outrage that drew comparisons to the death of George Floyd  in the United States.

Last week the men, J Jayaraj, 59, and Bennicks Immanuel, 31, were allegedly subjected to a brutal thrashing that resulted in rectal bleeding and eventual death, according to a letter to government officials written by Jayaraj’s wife J Selvarani.

“All important police personnel involved in the incident have been arrested,” said K Shankar, Inspector General of Police, Crime Branch Central Investigation Department in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

“The investigation continues,” Shankar said, adding that a murder case has been filed on the arrested policemen, who include two sub-inspectors, two constables and the police station’s inspector.

Hundreds of thousands of tweets were sent out using the hashtag #JusticeforJayarajandBennix, that was among the top Twitter topics trending in India last Friday and among the top 30 trending globally, with many comparing the deaths to that of George Floyd.

Bennicks died on Monday after complaining of breathlessness and Jayaraj died on Tuesday, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, who oversees the police in the state, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Police in Sathankulam, a town located 50km (31 miles) south of the port city of Thoothukudi in southern Tamil Nadu state, said the duo were picked up for breaching coronavirus lockdown rules by keeping their mobile phone shop open beyond stipulated hours.

The Madras High Court ruled on Tuesday that there were sufficient grounds based on the autopsy report to charge the policemen involved in the custodial deaths with murder, NDTV news channel reported.

The court also told authorities to provide protection to a policewoman who testified as a witness that the men had been tortured at the police station.
Residents gather as they carry the coffins of the father and son whose deaths at the hands of the police caused outrage across India, with many drawing parallels with the killing of George Floyd in the US. Photo: AFP

Custodial deaths are not uncommon in India. At least 1,966 such deaths were reported in 2018 to the National Human Rights Commission, according to United NGO Campaign Against Torture.

India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said nearly 15 cases of custodial violence and torture were reported daily on average. Some deaths were reported after considerable delay or not reported at all, adding violence in custody was so rampant “that it has become almost routine”.

Additional reporting by DPA

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