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Tuticorin custodial deaths rock Tamil Nadu, #JusticeForJayarajAndFenix trends on Twitter: 10 developments

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The death of a father-son duo in police custody in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin (Thoothukudi) has sparked massive outrage across the state.

#JusticeForJayarajAndFenix has become a top trend on Twitter, with people across Tamil Nadu condemning the alleged police brutality and demanding justice for the two — P Jayaraj and his son J Bennicks who is mistakenly being referred to as Fenix. The two were picked up for questioning by cops of the Sathankulam police station for allegedly violating lockdown rules. They later died in police custody.

Questions are also being raised over the role of a local magistrate in the custodial deaths of the two Tamil Nadu shopkeepers.

Here’s all you need to know about the Thoothukudi or Tuticorin custodial deaths case:

1. On June 19, P Jayaraj (59) and his son J Bennicks (31; being mistakenly referred to as Fenix) were picked up for questioning by the Tamil Nadu Police in Tuticorin’s Sathankulam for allegedly violating lockdown rules. As per the police, the duo was held for keeping their mobile accessories shop beyond permissible hours on June 19. An FIR was filed against the two on June 19.

2. The Sathankulam police then approached magistrate B Saravanan for the remand of Jayaraj and Bennicks. The magistrate allegedly gave the remand order without physically seeing the father-son duo, which is required to ascertain if detainees are injured, The News Minute reported.

3. Other reports say that in the early hours of June 20, Bennicks and Jayaraj were taken to a hospital before they were brought to the magistrate for remand. There, Bennicks and his father reportedly could not tell the truth of their ordeal due to repeated threats from police.

4. On June 22, Bennicks fell ill and was moved to the Kovilpatti General Hospital where he died. A day later, his father also died. The allegation is that they thrashed and tortured by the police while in custody, leading to their deaths. Some media reports also suggest that the duo was sexually assaulted in police custody.

5. Quoting eyewitnesses, a Chennai-based news site The Federal said that Jayaraj and his son were allegedly sodomised in police custody. “Between 7 am and 12 pm on June 20, the father and son had changed at least seven lungies (waistcloth) each as they had become wet due to blood oozing from their rectums,” The Federal quoted a friend of Bennick’s as saying. The friend also said the father-son duo came out of prison in a dishevelled state with torn and bloodied clothes. Bennicks’ friend, who was also were present in the police station when the police rounded them up, told the news outlet that for three hours, they heard only screams and cries of Jayaraj and Bennicks.

6. After the details of the case emerged, there was outrage in Tuticorin. Shops in the district remained closed to protest against the alleged police brutality. Over 150 people participated in a protest at the Virugambakkam market. Of these, 50 people were arrested for violating lockdown norms, The News Minute reported.

7. The family of Jayaraj and Bennicks have demanded that a murder case be registered against two sub-inspectors, alleging they were responsible for the death of the two. The relatives said they would not accept the bodies till their demand was met, even as the post mortem was held at the Tirunelveli Government Hospital. Various political parties, including the DMK, also demanded action against those responsible for the duo’s death.

8. Taking note of the matter, the Madras High Court has asked for a report. The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court directed the police to submit a report on July 26 over the death of the duo. Bennicks was bleeding when he was brought to the prison, jail authorities claimed. Tuticorin Collector Sandeep Nanduri said the duo had been earlier arrested and lodged in the Kovilpatti sub-jail. “There were complaints that they were killed in police assault… a judicial probe has been ordered,” Tuticorin Collector Sandeep Nanduri said.

9. Tamil Nadu CM K Palaniswami, on Wednesday, assured legal action as per the orders of the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court and action based on the magisterial probe into the custodial death of the father-son duo in Tuticorin. The Tamil Nadu CM also announced Rs 10 lakh ex gratia to their families and government jobs to a family member of each deceased. The chief minister said the two policemen alleged to be responsible for the deaths had been suspended and the inspector of Sathankulam been kept under compulsory waiting.

10. While people are alleging police brutality in the case using the hashtag ‘JusticeForJayarajAndFenix’ on Twitter, many celebrities also took to the social networking site to demand justice. “Will we and can we see law taking its course and punishing the guilty without any further delay in #Jeyaraj and #Fenix case? The culprits cannot and should not get away. A family has lost their most loved ones. Justice delayed is justice denied. #JusticeForJeyarajAndFenix (sic),” actress-politician Khushbu Sundar said on Twitter.

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