KOCHI: A fresh allegation that the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) had tried to shield the police officials involved in the custodial death of Sreejtih has given a new twist to the sensational case that has shocked Kerala.
The 26-year-old youth was arrested by Varappuzha police in Ernakulam district on the charge of abetment to suicide after his 66-year-old neighbour Vasudevan hanged himself to death following an attack by a 13-member gang at his house last week.
Local CPM leaders intervened in the case following allegations that Sreejith was wrongly picked up in place of the actual culprit bearing the same name. The party allegedly forced its branch secretary P M Prameswaran to give a statement to buttress the police claim.
The police had claimed that Parameswaran had given them a statement saying that he had seen Sreejith barging into Vaudevan’s house and threatening him. Parameswaran, who is Vaudevan’s neighbour, had initially refuted the claim saying that police may have forged his statement. But he retracted this later and said that he had indeed testified against Sreejith.
The forgery came to light when Parameswaran’s son Sarath revealed to the media that his father had owned the statement under pressure from party leaders. He said that his father had retracted the statement after two party workers took him to a party leader’s house.
"When he came back, he began to claim that he had indeed given the statement against Sreejith. This is not right. It is impossible for my father to witness the incident as he was in the market, where he worked, when the attack took place,” Sarath said.
He said that he had a photograph of the market register in which his father had marked the entry and exit time to prove that his father was not at the spot when the 13-member gang stormed the house of Vasudevan, a CPM supporter.
Family members of Sreejith said that the police had resorted to the forgery after Vineesh, son of Vasudevan, bared their claim that he had named Sreejith, who died in the custody, in the statement he gave to the police following his death. The claim fell flat after it was found that the statement did not contain his signature.
Vineesh said he had not mentioned Sreejith’s name either in the original complaint he lodged with the police regarding the attack on his father or in the subsequent statement that the police took at the station after Sreejith’s death. He alleged that the police may have fabricated the statement to save their skin.
He said that he had mentioned the name of one Sreejith while identifying the 13 persons, who were involved in the attack, but it was not the Sreejith that the police arrested. The person he referred to was another Sreejith, who is son of one Sasi.
In spite of the increasing evidence suggesting the arrest of Sreejith as a case of mistaken identity, the police clung to their claim that the Sreejith whom they took into custody was the actual culprit. This shows the desperation of the police.
There is reason for the police to be desperate since they can be held directly responsible for the death if their claim is proved wrong. The police will be able to explain the injury on the body of Sreejith if can be proved that he was involved in the attack on Vasudevan. Hence the desperate attempt to fabricate evidence.
The police have been maintaining that Sreejith had died due to internal injuries he sustained in the violence at Vasudevan’s house. They had alleged that Vasudevan had kicked on his abdomen while trying to defend himself. The police claimed that Sreejith had the injury mark when they took him into custody but they are silent on the question about their failure to take him to the hospital. They took him to the hospital only the second day.
The family members of Sreejith refuted the claim saying that he had not complained any pain before he was taken into custody by the police. Human Rights Commission acting chairperson P Mohandas agrees with the family pointing out that Sreejith had eaten and slept normally the day before his arrest.
“If he had such a vital injury on his body he should have gone to a hospital. But on the contrary Sreejith carried out his daily activities as usual. All the available materials show that custodial torture was the cause of the death,” said Mohandas, who visited Sreejith at the hospital before his death.
The human rights panel chief, who visited his house later, said that Sreejth’s wife had given a statement saying that she had witnessed the cops torturing her husband and that he was denied timely treatment, food and even water for two days.
Meanwhile, the final post-mortem report that has been handed over to the police has confirmed that Sreejith had died of severe infection which had affected his several vital organs. There were 18 injury marks on the body which also suffered several bruises, according to the report.
The report suggested that the injuries could possibly be due to police torture before death. The victim had suffered severe injuries in his private parts, the report said adding that his testicles had blood infiltration and his small intestine was on the verge of severing.
The post-mortem findings will make the alleged CPM attempt to shield the officials tough. The decision of the SIT to suspend four more officials, including the CI and the SI, shows the culpability of the senior officials in the case.
The alleged CPM intervention in the case has picked up by the BJP to make the custodial death a case of political murder. BJP National executive member P.K. Krishnadas alleged that the death of Sreejith in police custody was orchestrated with the knowledge of CPM leadership.
He said that the police trapped Sreejith, who belongs to their party. in the case on the pressure mounted by the Ernakulam district leadership of the CPM. This was why party leaders, including district secretary P. Rajeev went to the incident spot, he alleged.
Kirshnadas alleged that the police were still fabricating evidence and threatening the witness to absolve themselves from the custodial torture charge. The CPM was aiding the attempt in order to hide its involvement, the BJP leader said.
Image Credits: Indian Express