Custodial deaths: Kerala’s own Emergency continues decades after Rajan’s disappearance

Four decades later, many people find themselves in the same position that TV Eachara Warrier was

Vineesh and Siby

In Kerala, more than anything else, Emergency means custodial torture and death, given that TV Eachara Warrier was not willing to let the disappearance of his son P Rajan go unpunished. Four decades later, many people find themselves in the same position that Warrier was. The only difference perhaps, is that unlike Warrier and his wife, the police have returned the inexplicably wounded bodies of men they have picked up. 

65-year-old Venu sits in front of his shabby two-room house in Ernakulam district, unable to recall exactly when his son Vineesh died.

Weeping, he said: “The police took him away while we were having lunch. We did not see him alive (after that).”

The Elamakkara police (Ernakulam district) arrested Vineesh (32) on March 16 for not paying the fine in a petty case. On March 20, the Aluva police told them that Vineesh was critically ill, and had been admitted to the Thrissur Medical College hospital. By the time the family reached, Vineesh had died.

“They said he had a heart attack, but his body was full of wounds and marks.  We asked hospital staff what happened, but no one gave us an answer. They asked us to wait for the autopsy report,” says Anjali, Vineesh’s sister in law.

They have no idea how Vineesh was admitted to the Thrissur Medical College when he was arrested in Ernakulam, which is about 75 kms away. “He was healthy and hard working. He had no health issues,” Anjali said.

Three months later, the family has not been given the autopsy report. “I saw blood clots on his hands and face. He looked weird when we saw him in the hospital. We don’t have the money to pursue this. What can poor people like us do, except weep silently?” Venu says.

Soon after Vineesh’s death made news, political parties and local people joined the family in their fight for justice. But slowly, the supporters have dwindled.

“His death is a loss to me and to his father. It affected only us. We are the ones who gave birth to him, raised him and loved him. We are labourers, very poor. We have no power and no money. Who will help us? We don’t even know how to go to court,” says Sarojini, Vineesh’s mother.

A similar story emerged from Kottayam district. On June 6, 28-year-old truck driver Robin developed uneasiness and was admitted to Kottayam Medical College where he died. His family alleges he was tortured by the Pala police after they picked him up the previous day for behaving in a suspicious manner.

Police however, claim that Robin was drunk when they took him into custody. “He was not well when we arrested him. He had delusions and talked without logic. We had informed his family that very night,” Pala Circle Inspector Babu Sebastian claimed.

The next day, when Robin’s father and his colleague went to the Pala police station, they let him off. He died that very day.

“He had no sickness previously. The cause of death is still unknown,” says Ebin, Robin’s cousin. They too have not received the post-mortem report.

Ebin has lodged a complaint with the district magistrate, seeking an enquiry into the wounds on Robin’s body. He says the family will fight it out until they get justice.
The wait for 40-year-old Siby’s family has been a lot longer. On June 29, 2015, the Marangattupally police in Kottayam district picked up Siby after he supposedly had a fight with a neighbour.

When his family reached the police station, they found that Siby was made to stand in the rain.
Despite repeated pleas, the police did not allow him to be taken home. The next day, they were informed that Siby was unwell and had been taken to Kottayam Medical College, the media reported.

​Siby's parents
Siby’s relative told the media that he had visible injuries. Siby died on July 1. The Marangattupally police claimed that Siby was injured in the fight with his neighbour, a 16-year-old boy. The media however, reported that Siby was tortured in police custody and that it was so extreme that he urinated in the police station while it was carried out.

Despite complaints to various authorities, Siby’s family says no action has been taken.




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