Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, praised by his party workers for his progressive politics, has found himself in a precarious position following allegations of police torture and custodial deaths in Kerala.
The opposition on Monday sought a judicial probe into the custodial death of a 49-year-old man. The autopsy revealed that 49-year-old Rajkumar died on 21 June after being brutally tortured in custody.
This is the fifth allegation of custodial death against the Kerala Police since 2016, when the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government came to power, said leader of opposition in the state assembly and Congress’ senior leader Ramesh Chennithala. “The police will always protect the police. This is a brutal killing. In the last three years there have been five custodial deaths. There has to be a judicial probe."
“I have met the family members of Rajkumar. In a similar case of custodial death, police officials have been reinstated and one of them was even promoted," he added.
Vijayan assured the House of strict action against the police. “No one will be spared if found guilty. There is no place for such personnel in the police force," Vijayan said. “No one has the right to beat up or kill people in custody."
Rajkumar was summoned by the Peerumedu police in Idukki district on 12 June and was subsequently detained for alleged financial fraud. The Opposition also criticized the local court’s order for a three-day police remand on 15 June, given that the magistrate had to walk up to the police van as Rajkumar was so severely badly injured he was unable to walk.
On Monday, the Kerala high court ordered a probe into the magistrate Rashmi Ravindran’s actions and her failure to order a medical examination while awarding the remand.
Since the allegations of Rajkumar’s custodial death came before the media, four police personnel, including an assistant sub-inspector and a sub-inspector, have been suspended and eight others transferred, news channel NDTV reported.
Though Sunday’s post-mortem report says that Rajkumar died of pneumonia, it has also highlighted several injuries caused by a blunt instrument, including broken ribs, and repeated use of force on feet and palms, Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi reported. He suffered more than 30 injuries on his legs, the report added.
Rajkumar’s family also held a press conference on Monday, vowing to hold a protest in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram until a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is ordered.
The events spell more trouble for the state’s home department run by Vijayan, who has been repeatedly criticized by his political rivals for not taking enough action to safeguard law and order, besides giving a free hand to criminal elements within the police force.
Kerala has also hit the national headlines over at least 20 political murders in Vijayan’s term. To be sure, political murders have been a trend in the state for the last 20 years.
Last year, Sreejith, 26, had died in police custody, in what was seen as a case of mistaken identity.