VILLUPURAM: Two days after Express reported that a police team, believed to be from Tamil Nadu, picked up 11 men of Kurava community from a village in Kerala on June 21, it has now emerged that seven of them were detained at Ambattur police station in Chennai, while three were released by the officials on Wednesday. Meanwhile, there is no information on one person who is still missing.
The victims’ family filed a petition with the Villupuram Superintendent of Police on Thursday, demanding to release the seven persons. They also alleged that the members belonging to their own community had betrayed the men to the police in order to extort money from the family.
The men, along with several others, had left their native village, Kuthirai Santhai near Chinnasalem, in search of better livelihood along with their kith and kin 10 years ago. They were settled at Manikonda Kolavayal village in Kasargod district.
On June 21, a group of mufti-clad police personnel landed at their settlement and forcibly took the 11 men in the middle of their sleep around 1 am. “Police said the arrest was made in a theft case but refused to divulge where they were taking them,” said S Kannagi, wife of Subramanian, one of the 11 arrested.
The next day, relatives inquired with the local police and found that the men were illegally detained. They then filed petitions at various police stations with the help of two NGOs –Social Awareness Society For Youths (SASY) and Kurunjiyar Munnetra Peravai.
Since their efforts turned futile, on Tuesday, the families knocked the doors of National Commission for Scheduled Caste (NCSC). In their petition, they claimed that they have received information that the men were detained at Maduravoyal police station and sought action. However, the Maduravoyal police refuted the claim, following which the victims’ family members raised the issue with the media.
As news about their detention spread, police on Wednesday, released three persons – Velliyan, Ravi and Elavarasan – after warning them not to inform about the incident to anyone.
The police also went to the village in search of one Sangeetha, who spoke to mediapersons. Speaking to Express, Sangeetha, wife of Arikannu alias Arockiyam (36), who is still missing, “Around 4 am on Wednesday, while I was returning home, I saw a few mufti-clad police personnel, who took my husband, inquiring with the local villagers about me. Scared, I hid behind a bush until they left.”
She alleged that her husband was beaten up by the police with an iron rod and was taken away in a white van. “After a few hours, Araimandaiyan alias Ealumalai, a member of the Kurava community and a CPM functionary, contacted me over the phone and demanded `20,000,” she added.
Sangeetha further said that Elavarsan, released on Wednesday, had suffered severe internal and external injuries while in police custody and is currently admitted to Salem Government Hospital. The other two men have not come out of their house ever since fearing police action.
According to Captain Durai, State president of Kurunjiyar Munnetra Peravai, “Kurava community is one among the 27 denotified tribes, but the police still foist cases and illegally detain them. Since we are a minority community, we are made the scapegoats in most of the theft cases. Moreover, the members of our own community betray innocent people so that these cases won’t fall on them. They even act as middle men and bargain with us for money to ensure the release of the detained men.”
When Express contacted Villupuram ADSP Anusiya Ernest Daisy, inquiring into the complaint by the victims’ families, she said, “Of the 11 Kurava men, three were released on Wednesday itself. However, seven were arrested as they were involved in various crimes under the Ambattur police jurisdiction. We don’t have any information on 11th person – Arikannu – so far.” The NGOs – SASY and Kurunjiyar Munnetra Peravai – said they have filed a habeas corpus petition seeking to trace Arikannu. They also plan to stage a protest.