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“Don’t you know how powerful we are?,” TN police asked Dalit man who died in custody

Funeral of Prabhakar. Photo: Special arrangment.

A Dalit man with a disability, Prabhakar, in Tamil Nadu’s Salem district was found dead in police custody on 12 January after he, along with his wife, was picked up from their home on allegations of theft and faced police torture in custody.

While Prabhakar belongs to the Adi Dravidar (Dalit) community, his wife Amshala is a member of an Adivasi community in the state.

Prabhakar’s brother Sakthivel, who witnessed the arrest of Prabhakar and Amshala, said to The News Minute that the police abused the couple both physically and verbally when they picked them up. Sakthivel also filed a complaint against the police action in which he noted that the cops present dragged Amshala by the hair and threatened the residents in the neighborhood who came out of their homes upon hearing the commotion.

Sakthivel in his police complaint alleged that the Karuppur police in Salem reached the spot on being alerted about the commotion. They took custody of the duo, saying that they were being taken to the Karuppur station. However, Sakthivel said that he found his brother and wife neither at the Karuppur station nor at any court in Salem and Namakkal.

After two days of searching with no success, Prabhakar’s son filed a missing persons report on January 10.

Prabhakar was found dead in police custody on 12 January, four days after his arrest on 8 January.

On the night of January 12, the kin received a call from the police. “They told us that my brother was battling for his life at the Government Mohan Kumaramangalam Medical College and Hospital in Salem,” Sakthivel said in the police complaint.

Prabhakar

Amid allegations of custodial torture, three police officers — Poonkodi, Kulanthaivel and A Chandran — have been suspended.

“SI Chandran (one of the suspended officers) beat both of us. My husband, who was on the floor, kept saying he cannot walk and denied any role in the theft. Chandran told me ‘Don’t you know how powerful we, the police, are?'” Amshala, wife of the deceased narrated the events on January 8.

She further said: “The police kept demanding ‘accept that you have the jewellery’. Why would I do that? How could my husband walk somewhere to steal jewellery?”

She was speaking in a video The News Minute received from the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) Salem zonal organisational secretary Naavarasan.

VCK has been leading the protests demanding the suspension of all cops concerned.

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on Monday ordered the transfer of the probe into the death of Prabhakar, to the Crime Branch, Crime Investigation Department (CB-CID).

Stalin also announced that a solatium of ₹10 lakh would be given to the bereaved family from the Chief Minister’s Public Relief Fund.

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