Monday, June 29, 2009

The beating of his life


C.R. Rajesh, a Dalit, was picked up by the Kochi police, in place of his brother-in-law, a suspect in a bike robbery, and mercilessly hit

By Shevlin Sebastian

At 10 p.m. on April 26, 2007, a group of policemen came to C.R. Rajesh’s house in Paravur and called out the name of Deepesh. Rajesh came out and said his brother-in-law was not at home. One of the cops slapped him. Then another plainclothes policeman held him and pressed hard on a disc in the spine.

“It was very painful,” says the 21-year-old Dalit.

Then they grabbed Rajesh and took him inside the jeep. Only two people were in uniform: the driver and the then Koratty Sub Inspector K.J. Martin. For more than two hours the cops beat up Rajesh in the jeep, as they roamed around the town.

When the young man was brought to the station, at 1 a.m., he was asked to take off his shirt, sit on the floor, and stretch his legs. “A policeman hit my soles with a cane,” he says. “I felt a piercing pain.” There were beatings and kicks on the lower spine and the head.

Finally one of the officers said, “We are investigating the case of a stolen bike. We know Deepesh is involved and you are an accomplice.”

Rajesh pleaded his innocence. At 3 a.m. his chest expanded abnormally and he was unable to breathe. Rajesh heard Martin tell a constable, “Just check whether he has any pulse. If he dies we will be in deep trouble.”

He could feel a man hold his wrist and say, “Nothing seems to be wrong.” Nevertheless, he was rushed to the hospital.

Rajesh was administered oxygen and given an injection. “I lost consciousness,” he says. When he awoke, it was dawn and an additional sub inspector was watching him silently. He said, “How are you? Hope you are okay.”

Rajesh was brought back to the station, made to sign on a sheet of blank paper, and told to leave. “I asked them why I had beaten,” he says.

One of the constables said, “To know the answer come tonight to the station.”

For the next six months, Rajesh was in and out of hospital. Says Dr. S.D. Singh, specialist in torture medicine at the Sudheendra Medical Mission Hospital in Kochi: “Rajesh suffered from severe damage to the major muscles of the back and was unable to stand or walk. He had to endure excruciating pain.”

Meanwhile, a human rights activist, Anil Kumar, filed a complaint with the senior police authorities, the home minister and the chief minister. News features appeared in the newspapers and on television channels about Rajesh’s torture.

The cops tried to persuade Rajesh to withdraw his complaint but he refused. C.S. Murali, state secretary of the Kerala State Vettuva Maha Sabha upped the ante by staging a 12-day hunger strike outside the Deputy Inspector General of Police’s office in Kochi. Public pressure mounted and, finally, with the utmost reluctance, a six-month suspension was imposed on Martin.

“The police are using the same methods as the British,” says Murali. “For them, the word, ‘investigation’ means to beat people to the brink of death. We, Dalits, suffer all the time.”

(The New Indian Express, Chennai)

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