Custodial torture of Dalit teen in Kerala: Police brutality is nothing new in India's most literate state

A Dalit boy, Vinayakan, committed suicide in Kerala last month, allegedly after he suffered physical and mental torture at the hands of the police, and his post-mortem report confirmed the worst fears. The incident has opened a new can of worms in Kerala politics.

As per media reports, Vinayakan and his friend Sharath were picked up by the police from a public road in Pavaratty in Thrissur district, while they were talking to a girl on 17 July. The girl was let go after her father reached the police station, but the two boys were physically and verbally abused in the police station.

 Custodial torture of Dalit teen in Kerala: Police brutality is nothing new in Indias most literate state

Vinayakan killed himself after being tortured by the police. Firstpost/Akhil Vasudevan

The case, which started as an act of moral policing, took a nasty turn when the police tried coercing the boys into admitting they were involved in chain snatching, to solve a case which has been pending at the police station. The boys refused to accept the charge even after continuous physical torture. The police then called their parents and asked them to pay a fine of Rs 2,500, saying their motorcycle didn't have the relevant documents. Anguished by the arrest, torture and humiliation, Vinayakan committed suicide the next day.

"They were asked to admit being involved in chain snatching. But they refused, and said they won't accept something they don't even know about," said Krishnan, Vinayakan's father.

Krishnan was called to the police station saying the boys were caught with a girl. But when he reached, the charge was about the motorcycle documents.

It's been one month since the incident took place, and the case is currently with the Crime Branch. The police maintained its version that the boys were caught for not having the relevant documents on them. But such a charge doesn't explain the custodial torture, which was later confirmed by the post-mortem report as well. Sharath, the other boy who was picked up by the police, spent a week in hospital following the torture.

"His hair looked different, so the police told him he is a thug. But he is a small boy, even we are four times his size," said Vinayakan's uncle.

Mainstream Kerala society has been up in arms against long-haired dark men in recent times. A year ago, Martin Oorali, a musician, was caught and tortured by the police in Thrissur. The accusation? He had long hair, so he must've been a criminal.

In 2016, a popular Malayalam film Action Hero Biju showed an eerily similar scene, where two boys were caught by the police for not wearing a helmet. Upon seeing their "different" hairstyle, the cops ask them if they were involved in chain-snatching before asking them to cut their hair short.

The identification of dark and "different looking" people from the marginalised communities in Kerala has resulted in an atrocious end for one Dalit teenager, whose family is still awaiting justice from the system.

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Updated Date: Aug 22, 2017 17:56:00 IST