TW: Violence, sexual assault, police brutality.
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.
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.