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Police Brutality, Under Any Circumstance, Cannot Be Justified

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TW: Violence, sexual assault, police brutality.

This photo is designed by Siddhesh Gautham, a visual designer. I found it on their Instagram page @bakeryprasad.

Well, the world is painfully dark out there people. Dark it is during the day. Dark are some minds. Dark it is the system. It is just that our privileges have obscured this darkness.

If the recent custodial deaths of Jayaraj and Bennix in Tamil Nadu still doesn’t perturb you, it is, in every sense, highly alarming. The father-son duo hailed from the so-called lower rungs of society. Their financial restraints had them running their mobile shops beyond permissible hours during the lockdown.

The Sathankulam police then took them in for questioning and what followed were days of brutal, ruthless, and inhumane custodial torture, leading to death. There was alleged sexual assault while in custody. Their knees were smashed, blows were rained on their backs, and the damage was said to have been inflicted on their genitals.

According to a Chennai based news site The Federal, they had to change their lungies seven times in five hours as there was high bleeding. A friend of Fenix, The Federal reported, said that for three hours all that was heard were their frightening cries from within. Later, as is the usual development in such incidents, they were pronounced dead due to heart failure and fever.

This is far from a sporadic incident. The perennial problem of police brutality and custodial deaths is a form of structural violence. Marginalised communities have always been subjected to physical and mental torture by the instruments of the state.

According to the Marxist thinker Louis Althusser, to dominate the lower and working classes the ruling class harnesses the power of the Repressive State Apparatus (RSA) to their whims. The function of the RSA is to serve the interests of the ruling class by repressing the subordinate classes by use of violent and non-violent coercive means. This is why it is termed as structural violence.

The social structure where one class is privileged at the cost of another’s deprivation uses ideology and violence to sustain itself.

As long as the silence over such atrocities persists, there can be no way out of this. The police officers have been suspended. However, in no way does that amount to justice for Jayaraj and Bennix. The law must take its course in this and many other cases over which cloaks were brazenly laid.

Representational image. Image source: Flickr

Ultimately, any sort of police violence has to be kept under a tight rein in the future even if it is in the case of serial killers or rapists. No amount of criminal activity would justify brutality by the state and its instruments.

Recently there was another report of police violence from Tamil Nadu. A man of the Kuravar community who was taken up by the police for an enquiry into a theft case was found hanging from a tree with wounds of torture. While the rich can afford to circumvent the law with any blatant and abominable crime as the state assures them of its protection, those living on the fringes have to face inhumane treatment of the police while in custody and have to face unhelpful law and police while assaulted or harmed by the rich and powerful.

We came out in huge outcries in the case of the brutal murder of George Floyd, depression issues, and so on. That matters! Yet, when there is an unapologetic indifference towards alarming stories from the neglected corners (South India) and about the deprived, it merely shows how shallow your concerns are about the world and the people besides you. So unnerving can be this hypocrisy and apoliticism.

Hence, let’s condemn and call out any and every injustice under the sun. There can never be anything that stands tough in the face of persistent, unrelenting and unselective public outrage and struggles. That’s how we made it to where we are.

Demand justice for Jayaraj and Bennix.

You must be to comment.
  1. Jebakumar John

    This is a fantastic article. Thank you for writing this piece. I hope it serves as a tool for people to understand the system better. #Justice for Jeyaraj and Fenix

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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