How reliable are crime statistics in India

Murder charges against police officers - extreme case of police violence stirs up India

Two men had their shop open a quarter of an hour too long. They were mistreated by the police for violating the corona rules - and later died in the hospital.

The furor in India's social media is slowly subsiding, even if it now looks like the judiciary is finally going to act. Five police officers in southern India are charged with murder for allegedly torturing and killing two defenseless people.

The names of the victims are known across the country: Jayaraj, 62, and Fenix, 32. A father and son who lived in Tuticorin District. They ran a mobile phone shop there before they got into an argument with the police and were finally kept at the station overnight. They were so badly injured that they died two days later.

The fate of the two men has troubled the Indians, citizens express their anger online over the alleged crime. And there is frustration that police officers almost always get away without punishment despite brutal violence.

India's police officers rarely fear punishment. It is tricked and covered up to the detriment of justice.

For decades the state has done very little to change that. The Indian crime statistics list 1721 deaths in police custody between 2001 and 2018, but there were only 26 convictions of perpetrators in these cases over the same period. At the same time, the alliance “National Campaign against Torture” complains that 3 out of 4 deaths in police stations can be traced back to torture. This shows: India's police officers rarely have to fear punishment, it is tricked and covered up to the detriment of justice.

In the case of Jayaraj and Fenix, things should turn out differently, thanks to growing public pressure after film stars and well-known cricketers interfered and demanded justice for the two men. After the protests against police violence in the USA, the debate about the excesses is widening in India as well. Day after day the media brought to light new details about the crime against the men Jayaraj and Fenix, who are only publicly named by one name.

It all began apparently with nothing on the evening of June 18th. A police patrol caught the two of them that their shop was still open 15 minutes after the official Corona shop closing time. The police warned the traders, which they didn't like. It is said that Jayaraj began to curse the law enforcement officers, which they did not notice at first, but then learned when a witness reported it to the police.

So the officers came back the next day and took Jayaraj with them to the station. When his son found out about it, he hurried after. Soon the situation worsened, as can be seen from anonymously quoted police sources. Apparently one of the police officers started beating the father. The son tried to protect him. "That provoked the police team," quoted the Indian Express as saying a policeman who knew what was going on. He then also talked about how things continued: "They beat father and son for hours."

In the morning, the victims were finally brought before a judge, who apparently kept a great distance because of Corona and renounced his duty to have the two examined for injuries. It was enough for him that they could still walk. You were sent to prison for "disobedience and intimidation".

How severe her external and internal abdominal injuries must have been at this point in time could be seen from the fact that they had to change clothes at least seven times because they were bleeding so profusely from the rectum. The two men were not taken to a hospital until two days later, but by then it was too late to save their lives. According to her family, they were brutally tortured while in police custody.

Rivalry between castes may have played a role

Police in the southern state of Tamil Nadu then transferred four officers involved in the arrest and then suspended two, but took no further action. After protests in the population, a judicial authority intervened. Five police officers have now been charged. The autopsy reports were sufficient to permit a murder charge, as a higher court has since declared. An officer who is supposed to testify as a witness about the cruel deeds was placed under protection.

In the case of Jayaraj and Fenix, a racist motive as in the USA was initially not apparent, but there are indications that the rivalry between castes may have played a role. The brutality and arrogance of the police in the state of Tamil Nadu are notorious, and they play them against the “helpless poor and marginalized”, wrote the online magazine “The Wire” about the case.

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