“They made my life hell. Seven years of rigorous imprisonment is less for them. I wish they had got life imprisonment,” says Zarina, wife of Joinus Adams Yellamatti, who died in police custody in Nagpur in 1993.
The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday upheld the conviction of eight personnel of Maharashtra Police by the High Court in connection with the custodial death of Yellamatti. The apex court also increased their sentence from three years to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment.
Zarina, who was about 26 then, came to know about the SC order on Wednesday. She feels that the punishment handed to the policeman was not enough in the light of her “untold suffering”.
The incident dates back to June 23, 1993, when the 10 policemen picked up Yellamatti from his home in the Ajani railway quarters following investigation into a complaint by some people that they were “looted” some days ago. According to the prosecution, Yellamatti was beaten up before being brought to the station, where he was locked up. The next morning, he was found dead in the cell. “As I opened the door around 12.30 am that night, they (policemen) barged in, caught him by his neck and took him away. He was tied to a nearby electric pole and repeatedly hit with a cane. Clutching my then 10-year-old daughter Stenlos and eight-year-old son George to my chest, I kept pleading,” recalls Zarina.
Incidentally, the police had come searching for one Anthony in a theft case. “I told them my husband’s name was Joinus not Anthony but they seemed to care little. They made us sit in a police vehicle and took us to a place called Rani Kothi. Along the way and even there, they were touching me inappropriately and beating my husband to extract a confession for a crime he never committed,” Zarina, now 51, says.
Yellamatti worked as a ‘khalasi’ in the Railways. She got a job as a ‘safai karmachari’ in the railways a year later. “The whole family was distraught and my children couldn’t go beyond ninth standard. Stenlos married but her husband left. George is unemployed.”
When the case was being heard in the sessions court, Zarina allegedly received threats and bribe offers. “Once a group of men threatened me with dire consequences if I gave evidence against the policemen. I was even offered Rs 20 lakh as bribe. After that I was provided with round-the-clock police security,” Zarina says.
The SC bench had confirmed the 2008 HC conviction of the eight policemen — Yashwant Mukaji Karade, Rambhau Kadu, Jahiruddin Deshmukh, Nilkanth Chaurpagar, Namdeo Ganeshkar, Ramesh Bhoyar, Ashok Shukla and Sudhakar Thakre — on Tuesday.