The crime branch team led by IG Sreejith, investigating the alleged custodial torture of a young man in Varapuzha, announced the suspension of four police officers pending inquiry for their role in the man’s arrest. North Paravur CI Crispin Sam, Varapuzha sub-inspector Deepak, Grade ASI Sudheer and Sr. CPO Santhosh Baby were the officers suspended on Thursday. Earlier, three other junior cops had also been suspended.
Sreejith, also the name of the 28-year-old man from Varapuzha who was picked up by police on the night of April 6 for his alleged role in a mob attack on a house, died on the evening of April 9 at a private hospital as a result of injuries allegedly sustained during police torture in custody. His family had told the Indian Express that Sreejith was severely beaten and kicked by police officials and denied timely medical treatment. They also claimed that he was innocent in the case and that the police had arrested the wrong ‘Sreejith’, not the man who was originally named in the complainant’s statement.
“I saw him writhing in pain, holding his stomach. I wanted to give him some water, but the Sub-Inspector Deepak shouted at us. He told us to go away. I could see my son calling out to me for some water, but the police treated us so badly,” Sreejith’s mother, Shyamala said.
Today, in a fresh twist to the case, a youth, whose father had given a police statement affirming that he saw Sreejith as part of the mob on April 6, told reporters that his father was coerced to change his statement on the directions of local CPM leaders. Sarath, the young man, told the media that his father had initially said he was not an eyewitness to the attack but later changed the statement after being influenced by the local CPM unit.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has also asserted that his government will not protect those involved in custodial torture. “A high-level investigation has been initiated and therefore there is no need for any attempt to malign the government,” he said on Thursday.
Varapuzha, a small town on the fringes of Kochi in central Kerala, has been boiling with protests by locals and political outfits demanding strong action and punishment against the police officers involved in Sreejith’s alleged custody murder.