P. Jayaraj, 58, and his son Bennicks Immanuel, 31, were members of an evangelical church. (Image: YouTube)
A federal investigation has found that a Christian father and son who died in police custody in southern India were the victims of police torture.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) submitted a charge sheet to Madras High Court relating to the deaths at Sathankulam police station in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu state in June.
The agency said DNA samples collected from a lockup, toilet, the room of the station house officer and a wooden baton matched samples from the two victims.
“The entire locality, irrespective of religion, caste and creed, were waiting to hear the truth from the CBI, the highest agency in our country, who did a commendable job in bringing the facts about the custodial deaths of two Christians,” Bishop Stephen Antony Pillai of Tuticorin told UCA News.
“There is no doubt about the pressure on the CBI to bring the truth to the world because some even tried to give political color to it and some even tried to cash in on the opportunities, but finally the result was a clear indication that the father and son were tortured in custody, resulting in their deaths.
“We thank the CBI and administrations who were involved in this very sensitive case but we also ask respective governments to look at the matter of the poor and downtrodden who faced the same fate but could not fight their case due to poor financial or political support from their societies.”
Bishop Pillai said that victims P. Jayaraj, 58, and his son Bennicks Immanuel, 31, were members of an evangelical church.
The deaths sparked outrage across India, with many drawing parallels with the killing of George Floyd in the United States.
Police arrested Jayaraj on June 19 after he failed to close his son’s mobile phone shop in time following Covid-19 restrictions.
Hearing about his father’s arrest, the son went to the police station with his friends. When he saw his father being beaten up inside the station, he objected. Police also arrested him and chased away his friends.
Immanuel died on June 22, followed by his father the next day. Immanuel was the only son of Jayaraj and only brother for three sisters.
The Madurai bench of Tamil Nadu High Court on June 25 ordered a judicial probe into the incident and agreed to monitor the investigation.
The CBI in its report said that forensic expert opinion "that the deceased (men) were subjected to brutal torture by the accused police officials on June 19 in the lockup stands established.”
It said that the brutal torture "was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause their death."
The CBI charge sheet also states that the two victims were made to clean their own blood from the floor with their clothes.
It also mentions that they were made to suffer “several rounds of brutal torture, with intervals, in between 7.45pm and 3am.”
The CBI on Sept. 25 filed a charge sheet against nine police officers in a Madurai court in connection with the custodial deaths.
The accused are the then station house officer S. Sridhar, sub-inspectors K. Balakrishnan, and P. Raghuganesh, then head constables S. Murugan and A. Samadurai, and then constables M. Muthuraja, S. Chelladurai, X. Thomas Francis and S. Veilumuthu.