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Kerala cops face music after brutality charges

Sreejith was picked up in connection with the suicide of K.V. Vasudevan

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala police, so often praised for meritorious investigative work, is now facing a wave of anger following the death of a 26-year-old youth, allegedly following brutal torture in custody.

To add to the resentment of people over the unnecessary loss of a young life, all indications are that S.R. Sreejith, 26 a native of Varappuzha on the outskirts of Kochi who died in custody earlier this week was in fact the wrong person police had picked up.

Sreejith was picked up in connection with the suicide of one K.V. Vasudevan, 54 who reportedly committed suicide after being threatened and assaulted by a group of people. Vasudevan’s son had given a list to the police of those who attacked his father, based on which police took Sreejith into custody. But it now appears that it was in fact another Sreejith that Vasudevan’s son had named as an assailant.

After local protests, three policemen who had gone to Sreejith’s house to arrest him were suspended. Following that, four more police officers have been suspended, pending inquiry. The four have been identified as North Paravur circle inspector Crispin Sam, sub inspector G.S. Deepak, assistant sub inspector Sudheer, and civil police officer Santosh.

Sreejith collapsed in custody, apparently due to torture, and was taken to different hospitals before he passed away. His brother, Sajith said he too had been threatened by police. The circle inspector has been slapped with the charge that he failed to mention the injuries suffered by Sreejith while recording his arrest or preparing the remand report.

Sreejith’s wife and mother said the three policemen who picked him up from home had beaten him up in front of them even as Sreejith wondered why the police had come for him.

A special investigation team will now probe the assault on Vasudevan, his subsequent suicide, and the alleged custodial torture of Sreejith that led to his death. The post mortem report of Sreejith has revealed that the victim suffered serious injuries.

The state human rights commission has ordered the state government to take immediate action against all police officials involved in criminal cases in the state. A report accessed through the Right to Information Act had recently revealed that as many as 1,129 police officials in the state were accused in criminal cases.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said lock-ups in Kerala had become “killing fields”, and sought a judicial probe into the death of Sreejith. He said the policemen responsible for the death should be removed from service and tried for murder.

Police have rejected the allegation of torture, stating instead that Sreejith may have suffered injuries in a clash before being taken into custody.

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