TN Custodial Deaths: Christian Bodies Voice Concern, Demand Independent Probe

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Clarion India

NEW DELHI – Various Christian groups in India have demanded an independent probe into custodial deaths of a P. Jeyaraj (59) and his son J. Bennicks (31) in Tamil Nadu. The brutal murders, allegedly at the hands of policemen, have sent a shockwave throughout the country. Both Jayaraj and Bennix were members of the Church of South India.

All India Catholic Union (AICU) has sought the probe by a High Court Judge, whereas the Indian Christian Women’s Movement (ICWM) says a team of human rights activists and lawyers should conduct the investigation.

Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) called on the Centre to take immediate measures in initiating police reforms as minorities and Dalits are the worst victims of police excesses and torture in the country. Rev. Vijayesh Lal, General Secretary of EFI, condoled the custodial death of Jayaraj and Benicks who were “brutally tortured” in the police station of Sathankulam town of Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu.

Rev Lal said police brutality has become a global concern and continued to be a major cause of worry in the Indian subcontinent.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) called on “competent authorities” to ensure justice in the case.

Abraham Mathai, president of the Indian Christian Voice and former vice chairman of Minorities Commission in Maharashtra, said the custodial deaths were part of an ongoing persecution of Christians in Thoothukudi (formerly Tuticorin) district. Mathai pointed out that the police officers accused of the custodial deaths “are believed to have also been involved in religious persecution and human rights violations earlier this year.”

AICU, the 101-year-old body Catholics in India, alleged that the accused policemen “have been complicit in other custodial deaths in recent months, apart from fomenting caste clashes.”

The ICWM, the network of women from various Christian denominations, on June 29 wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edapaddi Palanisami to demand “a just trial and commiserate punishment of the policemen, and others involved in the murder.” “We are deeply shocked by the evidence of sexual torture of the men, apart from other brutal physical injuries,” the Christian women bemoan.

They assert that the deaths cannot be dismissed as “mere negligent acts” as they are the result of “the unholy nexus between the police, local judiciary and medical personnel.” They regret that the guilty policemen are not arrested even after a week.

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