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Kerala man’s protest against custodial death turns mass movement for justice

Thousands converged outside the secretariat to pledge solidarity with Sreejith and started an online campaign under the hashtag #justiceforsreejith.

india Updated: Jan 15, 2018 20:23 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala,Custodial death,Sit-in pritest
People join in the protest with Sreejith in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday.(HT PHOTO)

A Kerala youth’s 765-day-old lonely protest outside the state secretariat seeking a CBI probe into the alleged custodial death of his brother has turned into a mass movement overnight, fuelled by outrage on social media.

On Sunday, thousands converged outside the state secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram to pledge solidarity with Sreejith and started an online campaign under the hashtag #justiceforsreejith.

Supporters said they will be moving a petition in the high court on Monday to press for a CBI probe. Actor Tovino Thomas called on Sreejith. Footballer C K Vineeth of ISL team Kerala Blasters and many others also supported him.

Across Twitter, support poured in for the young man.

Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar also tweeted his support for Sreejith.

Though the Kerala Government wrote a couple of times to the CBI to probe the death, the agency refused to take it up saying the state police were competent to investigate the case.

Sreejith’s younger brother Sreejeev died in police custody in May 2014 after his arrest on suspicion of stealing a mobile phone. The police later claimed he attempted suicide while in custody and later succumbed in a government hospital. Sreejith claimed his brother was tortured and the police forced him to drink poison to make it look like suicide when his condition deteriorated.

Sreejith being interviewed. (HT PHOTO)

“There were cuts and bruises all over the body. When I tried to speak to him at the hospital I was not allowed by the policemen on duty. My brother wanted to tell something but I was dragged outside the hospital room when he tried to speak,” he said.

Seeejith said Sreejeev who was earning a living by repairing mobile phones, was in love with a girl in the neigborhood but her parents opposed their relationship vehemently. Later, her marriage was arranged with another man and Sreejeev was taken into custody a day before the wedding. He alleged that one of the girl’s uncles posted at the Parasala (Thiruvananthapuram district) police station, fabricated a case to arrest and torture Sreejeev to prevent him from creating any problem during the marriage.

He said soon after his brother’s death, he approached the state human rights commission and the state police chief demanding a detailed probe. Though the family received Rs 10 lakh compensation, no further probe was conducted. When all his pleas failed, he began launched a sit-in outside the state secretariat in May 2015.

“Police are there to protect people, not to kill them. It is a clear case of murder. The state police are trying to save the accused and destroying all evidences. Only a CBI probe will unravel the truth,” he said.

Sreejith who used to work as a painter, also has younger sister. His father died a few years ago.

Former chairman of the state police compliant authority justice Narayana Kurup, who investigated the case, supported Sreejith saying it was a clear case of custodial death.

“I examined the case diary in detail. There were many lapses. I strongly feel Sreejeev died during torture and later it was made a case of suicide to brush it aside,” he said.

If the authorities had heeded his observation Sreejth should have got justice by now, he said.

Meanwhile, the state home department has sent another missive to the Union government requesting the central agency probe into the case.

First Published: Jan 15, 2018 20:16 IST