A dubious record

Print edition : July 31, 2020

Tamil Nadu has a long history of police brutality and torture. Here is a list of a few of the most notorious cases:

• Muthukulathur Keelathooval firing in 1957

• The hunting down of many youth in North Arcot and Dharmapuri districts under the pretext of anti-naxalite operations in the 1970s

• Police firing on Chennai Marina fishermen in 1985

• The rape of Padmini after the murder of her husband in the Chidambaram Annamalai Nagar Police station in the 1980s; the rape of 19-year old Rita Mary at the Gingee Sub Jail in 2001

• Atrocities on the tribal people of Vachathi by police and forest department officials in 1992

• Gruesome atrocities against hapless tribal villagers by the Special Task Forces of both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka during their hunt for the forest brigand

Veerappan for more than a decade since the early 1990s until his death in 2004

• Atrocities against Dalits in Kodiyankulam in Thoothukudi district in 1995

• Police firing on fishermen in Thoothukudi town in 1996

• Gundupatti violence in Dindigul district in 1998

• Tamiraparani-Mancholai tea estate violence in Tirunelveli in 1999

• Police firing in the Chennai Central Prison in November 1999

• Police atrocities n Sankaralingapuram village in 2001

• The Paramakudi police firing on Dalits in 2011

• Police firing on Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi town in 2018

Besides these cases, many extrajudicial killings of alleged history-sheeters and Maoists, apart over 100 custodial deaths (since 1996), have taken place in three decades since 1990.

Another dubious distinction of the Tamil Nadu was the case of 24-year old Parvathy, the first woman to die in custody in an All-Women Police Station at Thoothukudi in July 1994 where she was brought for an inquiry after a domestic dispute. Ironically, the very concept of all-women police stations was mooted by the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in 1992 with the aim of protecting women.

Most of the victims of police brutality happen to be persons belonging to the minority communities, Dalits and other marginalised sections of society.

Supercops on celluloid

Tamil cinema has a notorious tradition of celebrating extrajudicial action by police officers. Blockbusters such as Walter Vetrivel starring Satyaraj, Kakka Kakka and Singam starring Surya, Saamy starring Vikram, and Kamal Hassan’s Vettaiadu Vilaiyadu , among other films, have glorified trigger-happy policemen as supercops.

One of the sub-inspectors indicted in the Sathankulam custodial deaths, Raghu Ganesh, was even known as “Komban” Raghu among colleagues and the public. He was known to be ‘aggressive’ like the eponymous character in the movie Komban. There are exceptions such as Visaranai by Vetrimaran, which realistically portrayed custodial brutality.

Ilangovan Rajasekaran

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