Written by Kamakshi Anand, a grade 11 student.
“How much is your life worth?”
“15 minutes”, said Jayaraj and Fenix
On June 19, around 8:15 pm in the Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu, Jayaraj, an ordinary middle-class shopkeeper, was pulled up by the Sathamkulam police officials who were on patrol. The arrest was made on the account that Jayaraj had exceeded the curfew, shutting his mobile store 15 minutes late. The next day, Jayaraj’s son Benicks (or Fenix) was arrested when he went to enquire about his father’s arrest. The two were booked under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 353 (use of force to deter public servant from duty) 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), and 506(2) (Punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code. The father-son duo died within hours of each other 2 days later. The cause of death stated was heart failure and fever. But this account of the event is incomplete. The two days of detention were perhaps the most painful for Jayaraj and Fenix.
Family members of the deceased said that during the two days, they received blood-soaked clothes of Jayaraj and Fenix and were asked to provide new pairs of clothes without any explanation. This took place thrice. Eyewitness accounts claim that the two were brutally injured while being taken to the hospital, however, the medical personnel denied any such claims. The police allegedly tortured the two men and also sexually assaulted them. Fenix’s lawyer who was at the station claims to have seen the beating take place.
The official account becomes more fictional when we look at the discrepancies from the official side.
- The FIR– While the case says that the FIR was filed by Sub Ispector P Raghuganesh at 9:15 pm based on information from Head Constable Murugan who was on patrol duty at 9:15 pm at Kamaraj Salai, in reality, the FIR was filed more than an hour after the two were hauled up by the police. The report was signed by 10 pm. The timing of the incident conflicts with the information from eyewitnesses. How did the head constable manage to be in the station to make the complaint and on patrol at the same time on the same date?
- Eyewitness evidence– The police in its FIR has said that the two had internal injuries after rolling on the road and resisting arrest. If there were internal injuries how did the magistrate sign off on judicial custody instead of immediate hospitalisation for treatment?
- Phony magistrate trial– Then comes the question on how the magistrate gave the nod for judicial custody without checking the physical fitness of the duo, a mandatory step as per the criminal rule of practice rule 6. The duo had been profusely bleeding to the extent that they had to change clothes multiple times.
Following the suspicious death of Jayaraj and Fenix, the streets of Tamil Nadu broke out in protests against police brutality. They held the police accountable for the murder of the duo and demanded justice. The authorities reacted by suspending the four policemen (two SIs and two constables) in the Sathankulam police station and the inspector in-charge had been transferred. If this is the justice that our judicial system deems appropriate then I’m sorry to say but it has failed in its duty to protect Indian citizens.
Bollywood has done its share in normalising police brutality to serve “justice” to “bad guys”. I ask filmmakers to rethink the impact that they have on society. By taking the law in their hands, the police serve only injustice. Every man is innocent until proven guilty. To take away from them a chance at true justice in the eyes of the law is not a power the police should be given.
The murder of George Floyd united the world against racism. It was a fight against police brutality and the inefficiency of the justice system. But that fight has not ended. Jayaraj and Fenix have become a part of the long list of people whose lives ended at the hands of a force that was supposed to protect them. It is the lack of accountability of the police force that makes them so dangerous. We are not against the police; we are against police brutality.
Margaret J. Wheatley said, “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about” and we care about human life.
Written by Kamakshi Anand
Kamakshi is a prolific writer. She’s been writing on Instagram for 2 years (@wingedwords02) and her work has also been published in 4 anthologies. She is currently working on a poetry manuscript and also writes for a mental health awareness organisation. Kamakshi is the content editor for her school magazine and social media associate at I Kid You Not
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