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Saturday, October 23, 2021

‘MP aide said suicide… I saw my appa’s body, he had injuries all over… Truth will come out’

After the case was transferred from the local police to the CB-CID, five employees of Ramesh’s cashew unit in Panruti, near Cuddalore, were arrested on Saturday, October 9, while the MP surrendered on Monday.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai |
Updated: October 14, 2021 12:46:41 pm
DMK’s Cuddalore MP TRVS Ramesh (left) and victim Govindarasu. (Photo: Facebook @Dr. S. Ramadoss)

The death of 57-year-old Govindarasu, a daily-wage labourer at a cashew processing unit owned by DMK MP TRVS Ramesh, came at the end of at least two rounds of torture on September 19, police sources said.

After the case was transferred from the local police to the CB-CID, five employees of Ramesh’s cashew unit in Panruti, near Cuddalore, were arrested on Saturday, October 9, while the MP surrendered on Monday. On Wednesday, a judicial magistrate court in Cuddalore granted 24-hour custody of Ramesh to the investigating agency.

Top sources in the Tamil Nadu CB-CID said Ramesh’s arrest was based on his questioning and other evidence that point to his presence at the spot while the victim, Govindarasu, was being tortured.

While the accused told police that the security guards caught Govindarasu while he was going home after work with cashew stolen from the processing unit, the victim’s son denied the charge, saying his father already had issues with Ramesh’s men for demanding a salary hike after working there for about seven years.

According to Govindarasu’s son Senthil, a 36-year-old lorry driver who lives in Chennai, his father worked at TRV Gayathiri Cashews, the unit owned by Ramesh, for Rs 300 a day, sometimes working Sundays too.

“Nobody can steal anything from the factory — it is fully under CCTV surveillance. Workers leave even their lunch boxes at the security gate before entering the factory. Not even a plastic bag is allowed inside. Let them check the CCTV cameras, the truth will come out,” Senthilvel told The Indian Express.

At 2.25 am on September 20, Senthilvel received a call from his father’s phone. “The person who spoke to me introduced himself as Natarajan, the private assistant of the MP. He said my appa (father) had consumed poison and died,” recalls Senthilvel.

Natarajan was among those who were arrested on Saturday by the CB-CID. The others are factory manager Kandavel, and senior employees M Allah Pitchai, K Vinoth and Sundararajan.

Senthilvel says he called his cousins Anantharajan and Raguraman and asked them to rush to Panruti General Hospital.

He says his cousins reached the hospital by 2.45 am, and called him back.

“My cousins said appa had been beaten to death… that it’s not a suicide. They took a picture of the body and sent it to me,” says Senthilvel, adding that all this while, Ramesh’s men were at the hospital. But as Anantharajan and Raguraman questioned their claim about the suicide, there was a minor scuffle, following which the MP’s men allegedly fled the scene in two cars.

Senthilvel says Govindarasu’s TVS scooter was at the hospital when his cousins went there, though the key was missing. “Later, the scooter also disappeared. We don’t know who brought it there or where is it now. We have reported this to CB-CID,” says Senthilvel.

Senthilvel says he rushed to his village, about 200 km from Chennai, and headed straight to the Kadampuliyur police station. He says police initially refused to file an FIR citing technical glitches in the server. But with a crowd building up outside the police station and pressure by local leaders of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) — an ally of Opposition AIADMK and a party known for its significant presence among the OBC-Vanniyar community — an FIR was filed by 3 pm on Monday.

A senior police officer in Cuddalore, who is related to the probe, said that around 10 pm on Sunday night, Ramesh’s men had taken a severely wounded Govindarasu to the Kadampuliyur police station, accusing him of theft.

“Officers who were present at the station refused to take him inside seeing the injuries. They asked Ramesh’s men to take Govindarasu to a hospital. It was a big mistake on their part… they should have taken him to hospital instead of asking the men who tortured him to take him,” the officer said, adding that the station’s CCTV footage of Sunday night “speak the truth”.

Two official sources told The Indian Express that Govindarasu told the personnel at the police station that he was tortured by the MP and his men. “He said the MP and his men beat up him badly. He said he would die,” they said.

Senthilvel says that while he was at the police station to file his complaint, Shanmugam, the watchman of the cashew processing unit, was brought in for questioning. “While we were there, Shanmugam told police officers that the MP was also part of the team that tortured him on Sunday. We do not know if his statement was recorded,” says Senthilvel.

The officer related to the probe said they had evidence and statements by witnesses that show Ramesh was present while Govindarasu was being tortured. “There are credible statements that the victim was beaten up on Ramesh’s directions. Then they took him to the police station. After the police sent them back, they tortured him again, but this time, Ramesh was not present. Govindarasu died the same night,” the officer said.

Saying he wasn’t confident of a fair post-mortem in Tamil Nadu, given that the MP belongs to the ruling party, Senthilvel moved a petition in the Madras High Court, demanding that the body be shifted to JIPMER Hospital in Puducherry for the postmortem.

The court, while seeking a progress report on the investigation, ordered that the postmortem be done by a panel of three experts from JIPMER. The report, which is yet to be made public, has been sent to the High Court.

Senthilvel says he can’t forget what he last saw of his father. “There were injuries all over his face. His left eye and the bone next to it were damaged, disfiguring his face. There was blood in his nose and ears, besides other torture marks,” he says.

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