Poor Dalits take so little from Society,
But contribute so much to its ‘Development’
And pay such a huge price in the Process!
Suresh @ MGR S/o Ganapathi, a Dalit youth from Gandhi Nagar, Orikkai, Kancheepuram is the latest victim of custodial murder.
Suresh, who is around 33 years of age, is a lorry driver by profession. On 12th Feb. 2018, he was called at 6.00 pm by one of the lorry owners, who mines sand from neighbouring mines, to drive a lorry. Suresh went to work and did not call his wife at all that night, as was his usual practice. His concerned wife tried calling him at around 10.00 pm and found that his mobile was switched off. The family members kept on calling him through the morning of 13th Feb, but could not reach him at all.
They somehow called up another driver who had returned home, after driving another sand lorry. He told them that Suresh had been caught by Special Force of Kancheepuram police alongwith several others. The owner of the lorry Deepak also called them up to inform that several lorries have been caught by the police. This person also said that a total of five persons had been remanded including Suresh and were lodged at Vellore prison. He assured them that he will get Suresh out on bail immediately.
However, the next day viz., 14th Feb. 2018 at around 3.30 pm, the family got the shocking news that Suresh’s body had been recovered from Kil Ambi lake that morning.
Information collected by us from various sources reveal that that only four drivers were taken to Baluchettichatram Police Station that night by Special Force. After interrogating them, two lorry owners were also picked up and total of six persons were arrested. However, Suresh was not among them. His body was shown as recovered from the lake at around 11.00 am of 14th Feb. At first, the police tried to pass it off as an unknown body and totally unrelated to the seizure of sand lorries. But the lorry he had driven is with the police. So they could not keep up that facade for long. The owner is said to be absconding.
Hence it raises a few important questions: Where was Suresh kept by the Special Force from the night of 12th Feb till 14th Feb morning? Why was he not remanded alongwith the others? What the purpose of torturing him when he was a mere driver?
Suresh lived in grinding poverty. He did not get an opportunity or congenial environment for education / studies as a boy. Consequently, the doors of the job market were closed to him as youth. He could not get a secure or better job and driving heavy vehicles became his only source of livelihood. He did this job of driving sand filled lorries knowing well that there were huge risks attached to it. But Suresh did not have the option or privilege of leaving it.
His wife Sankari is 26 years old. They have two young children, a boy aged 6 and a girl aged 5 years. His parents lived alongwith them. When we visited their house in the Gandhi Nagar slum, we could see that it is a newly constructed small house. The 100 sq.ft area (approx) is partitioned into a bigger living room cum kitchen and a tiny bed room. His house did not have a bathroom or toilet. It is made of locally available fly ash bricks and RCC roofing sheets. Flooring work, painting and finishing work remain pending as there was no more money. The family sits and sleeps on the rough, uneven surface. Like most poor people, Suresh too was building his house in instalments spread over several years.
This is all that Suresh could earn from driving sand-filled lorries for years. But the family was happy that they had finally managed to get a pucca house. His parents had high hopes that he would support them in their old age, as he was the oldest son. But with his gruesome custodial death, that simple dream has been shattered and the entire family is devastated.
The Special Force has ostensibly been created to check the menace of rampant and often illegal sand mining. But in reality, all sand mining, both legal and illegal, happens with active connivance and collusion of police, revenue and district administrative departments. This Special Force is made up of police personnel from the Armed Reserve and reports directly to the Superintendent of Police Kancheepuram. That day’s team comprised 11 members including Muthu, who was its leader and Suresh a policemen. The drivers we spoke to said that they remember these two well as they are the ones who are wheeler-dealers for collecting hefty bribes from lorry owners. This team patrols areas known for sand smuggling at night. They are mostly in civil dress, but go in a big police van, heavily armed with iron rods, lathis and sticks.
The SF team is notorious for its arbitrary, barbaric behaviour and torture of drivers, loaders and other workers. Some of them are highly casteist too and torture unfortunate dalit and tribal people who get caught doing this menial but hazardous work. This is not the first such incident of torture by the SF. About one and half months back, another Dalit youth, who too was a sand lorry driver from the same area, was badly beaten up by this team. He bared escaped alive.
There is a protest going on before Kancheepuram General Hospital since last night demanding action against the SF team for the murder of Suresh. Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Makkal Mandram, Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam and many other organizations are supporting the family members and villagers of Orikkai in demanding justice for Suresh.
The main demands are:
- FIR should be booked against all 11 members of Kancheepuram Special Force, under section 302 of IPC and SC / ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
- Investigation should be handed over to CB – CID.
A team of expert doctors should visit Kancheepuram General Hospital and conduct post mortem in from of independent witnesses, and video record the entire proceedings.
The family should be given immediate compensation and a family member should be given a government job.
Please call up the Superintendent of Police and District Collector Kancheepuram demanding strict action against the murderous criminals in uniform.
Geeta Charusivam is a social activist