By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: Prominent Christian body, Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) on Monday condemned the custodial death of father and son in a police station of Tamil Nadu in the strongest possible terms. It called on the Central Government to take immediate measures in initiating police reforms in the country as minorities and Dalits are the worst victims of police excesses and torture in the country
Rev. Vijayesh Lal, General Secretary of EFI, condoled the custodial death of P. Jayaraj (59) and his son, Emmanuel Benicks (31) who were “brutally tortured” in the police station of Sathankulam town of Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu.
Rev, Lal said police brutality has become a global concern and continued to be a major cause of worry in the Indian subcontinent.
The victims belonged to the Nadar Christian community and owned a mobile phone store in the town. The father and son were arrested on 19 June by Sathankulam Police on the charge that they had defied COVID-19 lockdown regulations. The family said they were sodomized with rods by two sub-inspectors and two constables. They were bleeding profusely when they were produced before Magistrate P. Saravanan who overlooked their trauma and remanded them again to police custody on 20 June.
With fatal internal injuries, Benicks died in the Kovilpatti Government Hospital on 21 June. Jayaraj died the next morning. The police have also been accused of fomenting case and communal tensions in the city.
The Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India on February21 had reported a case from the same police station in which seven Christian pastors were taken into custody and assaulted. The police – Sub Inspector Raguganesh and Head Constable Murugan – beat them with batons causing injuries on their legs and backbone. The Christians were later released after human rights groups intervened in the matter.
He said EFI calls on competent authorities for justice in the custodial death of Jayaraj and Benicks. Though the accused officers have been suspended, but they are free to terrorise witnesses. They must be arrested and charged with murder, he added.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau data of 2018, Tamil Nadu accounts for second-highest deaths in police custody while Gujarat being the first.
“Evangelical Fellowship of India calls on the Central Government to take immediate measures in initiating police reforms in the country. Police brutality has become a global concern and continues to be a major cause of worry in the Indian subcontinent,” he said.
He pointed out that the impunity with which police officers have thrashed and tortured civilians during lockdown curfews in every state has been widely covered in print and audio-visual media.
He further averred that the religious minorities and Dalits are the worst victims.
“Thus far in 2020, the Religious Liberty Commission of EFI has reported 132 incidents of religious persecution against the minority Christian community in India.”
Despite the COVID-19 lockdown, reports of violence against Christian pastors and church members have continually poured in from all over the country, Rev. Lal said.
The All India Catholic Union has also demanded a judicial enquiry by a High Court Judge into the brutal custodial killing of a father and son.
In a press statement All India Catholic Union president, Lancy D’Cunha said : A modern nation needs a modernised police force. It must show the diversity of communities that exist in the country. It must be trained in modern forensic sciences instead of using third degree methods on suspects, innocent or guilty, to solve crimes. Above all, policemen and women must be taught to respect human rights guaranteed to all people under the Constitution of India. The police also need better housing humane working hours and an opportunity to grow professionally.”