Fourteen people, including five children (aged between two and 12) and four women, belonging to the nomadic korava community in Madurai, are alleged to have been tortured under illegal detention by Kanniyakumari police for about two months. However, Superintendent of Police G. Dharmarajan denied the charge of illegal detention and said it had been “cooked up.”
While the women and children were let off reportedly on last Friday, the five men were remanded for alleged involvement in robbery cases. However, the women claimed that the cases were foisted and the five men were forced to confess.
“We received a complaint on May 24 that these people, who had gone to Mondaikadu for seasonal employment, were missing for nearly a month. A habeas corpus petition was filed in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court and Kanniyakumari district police were served notices. Despite this, the police tortured them in illegal custody for another month,” said Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director of People’s Watch, an NGO.
The ordeal started for the people, who were earning a livelihood by sharpening knives and other tools through stone wheel, when they were picked up by plainclothes policemen from their temporary settlement in Mondaikadu on April 29.
They were reportedly taken to a retiring room for police located close to Thuckalay police station, where they remained locked up throughout their detention.
The men and women were allegedly tortured in front of their children, who were also subjected to beatings occasionally, Mr. Henri said.
M. Selvaraj (32), one of the victims, was clandestinely given treatment at a private hospital as one of his legs was allegedly fractured in the torture. “They made my uncle lie down and beat him with a big lathi one morning. He couldn’t walk after that,” claimed G. Sekar (12), a Class 7 student, who was taken along to Mondaikadu to look after the younger kids during work. The women claimed that three of them were taken to a private hospital near Thuckalay police station a few times as they developed bleeding. V. Valli (30) has now been admitted to Government Rajaji Hospital for treatment.
Condemning the action as gross violation of law and human rights, Mr. Henri demanded that all the 14 people should be adequately compensated. “National Human Rights Commission should take cognizance of this and conduct an enquiry and all the police personnel should be punished,” he said.