Custodial violence incident in Tirunelveli shocks Tamil Nadu

Published : Apr 05, 2023 17:46 IST - 5 MINS READ

Ambasamudram ASP Balveer Singh.

Ambasamudram ASP Balveer Singh. | Photo Credit: By Special Arrangement

Balveer Singh of Haryana, an ASP on probation, caused multiple injuries to several accused persons.

In a horrifying act that has tainted the Tamil Nadu Police, a young Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) broke the teeth and crushed the testicles of some accused persons, including a couple of juveniles, in custody in connection with a violent clash between two groups at the caste-sensitive Ambasamudram town in Tirunelveli district in southern Tamil Nadu.

The ASP on probation, Balveer Singh of Haryana, a 2020 batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, was on his first independent posting.

While dealing with the accused in custody in March, he knocked out the teeth of five accused persons and crushed the testicles of a newly wedded youth, and also forcefully stuffed pebbles inside the mouths of others and slapped them, causing multiple injuries—all just to serve a stringent warning to those who came in conflict with the law.

His actions came to light two weeks later when three of the accused persons who got bail released a video clip on Twitter to “expose the weird and brutal custodial violence they underwent in the hands of the ASP and other policemen”. V. Maharajan, a lawyer, lodged a complaint against the violation.

The clash and after

Reports said that two groups armed with deadly weapons fought a pitched battle in Ambasamudram town on March 10 over a private issue. A police team led by the ASP rushed to the spot and picked up nine persons including two teenagers, six from one group and three from the other, and took them to Ambasamudram police station for an inquiry. All nine were charged with attempted murder.

That night and the next morning, the detenues were kept at Ambasamudram and the nearby Vikramasingapuram police stations, where the ASP and a team of police personnel, including the officer’s gunman, subjected them to inhuman treatment.

The victims recollected that the ASP came to the Ambasamudram police station that night, dressed in casuals and sporting a pair of gloves. The accused were perplexed but to their horror, he took out a pair of cutting pliers and began pulling out the tooth of Chellappa of Vikramasingapuram, one of the accused.

Then he grabbed the testicles of Chellappa’s brother Mariappan, another accused in the case, and squeezed them until he fainted. This he did after he was told that Mariappan was recently married.

The officer then stuffed a handful of pebbles inside the mouths of three others and violently slapped them. The impact was such that they suffered broken teeth besides multiple cuts and abrasions in the mouth, tongue and throat.

Chellappa (35), who runs a meat shop, said: “The pain was blinding. My mouth was full of blood.” Chellappa lost three teeth while the others lost at least two.

The two minors too also suffered broken teeth. They were handcuffed and produced before the Juvenile Justice Board. When the victims were produced before the Cheranmadevi magistrate court, they were threatened by the police to keep quiet.

“It’s a clash over a personal issue. They are first-time offenders,” said Maharajan.

Sources said that the treatment by the ASP was not confined to the nine accused in this case. He had used such violent techniques on others against whom complaints were registered. Even in a domestic complaint preferred by a woman, he picked up her husband, an autorickshaw driver, and broke the man’s tooth before advising him to “remain disciplined”. These acts had even prompted some to erect flex boards with messages of appreciation for his work.

Maharajan told Frontline that after the latest exposure of custodial violence, several other cases were getting reported. “The ASP has adopted such violent methods since he joined Ambasamudram last October. We have statements of 18 people so far who were victims of his brutal behaviour. There are also cases where he inserted bottles in the rectum of habitual offenders. The police would later admit them to hospital claiming they suffered piles and fistula problems.”

A social activist said that there was something seriously wrong with the ASP. “His psychological health needs to be evaluated,” he said. A senior policeman in the ASP’s sub-division, on request of anonymity, told Frontline that Balveer Singh would talk about the various police methods used to deal with serious offenders in the border areas of Rajasthan and Haryana. “He used to say that he had witnessed such acts of brutality in police stations there,” he said.

K.P. Karthikeyan, the Tirunelveli district Collector, ordered a sub-divisional magistrate inquiry by the Cheranmadevi Sub-Collector Mohammed Shabbir Alam.

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin told the Assembly that necessary action would be taken against the officers involved. He said the ASP was suspended pending inquiry.

The State Human Rights Commission has taken up the issue suo moto. Five victims deposed before it at Chennai on March 31.

Maharajan said that apart from the ASP, all the other officers involved in the rights violations should be booked. He also denied the involvement of any caste outfit in the matter, stating: “The police are trying to give a caste twist to the issue. But the victims belong to different castes, such as Nadar, Paraiyar, and Thevar.” He also urged the Tamil Nadu government to file an FIR against the ASP and others involved in the rights violations.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu chapter of the IPS Officers Association expressed its displeasure over the way the media had been reporting the issue. In a release, Abhash Kumar, DGP of Fire and Rescue Services and president of the Tami Nadu chapter, said the media must “exercise discretion” while reporting on this matter until the inquiry is completed.

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