CHENNAI: The family of 17-year-old boy from Kannagi Nagar approached the city police commissioner’s office on Saturday complaining of police excess. The boy, son of a casual labourer, was picked up from his house on Friday night by four plainclothed policemen who thrashed the boy brutally, injuring his face and body.
What’s appalling is that the boy was said to have been picked up in a case of mistaken identity as the cops suspected him to be part of a mobile phone stealing gang. However, for residents of Kannagi Nagar where the boy lives, such police excess was an everyday affair and the city police’s act only reaffirms the open secret of police brutality on those from the oppressed sections of society.
Kannagi Nagar near Thoraipakkam off the IT corridor of Rajiv Gandhi Salai houses about 40,000 families - slum dwellers who were evacuated and resettled in match-box units of the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board. Most of the domestic labour force of the city goes from this area where all belong to low income group (LIG) families and most are Dalits.
“You stand outside your home and talk with your friends, you’ll see police turn up. If we ask them if we are not allowed to stand outside our homes, they will ask us to come to the police station,” rues Daniel, of Kannagi Nagar, to Express. Daniel works as a painter.
People returning late night after odd jobs are invariably harassed by cops, residents say. “Even those returning after watching a movie are suspected,” says Srinivasan, an auto driver.
According to S Karuppiah, joint general secretary, Dalit Liberation Movement, police oppression of the already-oppressed community exists across the state. “The mindset is that if they are from the slums and similar areas, they must be rowdies and anti-social elements. Police take advantage of this and harass them,” he said.
From the Thanjavur farmer, G Balan (who was roughed up by cops for defaulting on a loan) to 24-year-old Dhilipan Mahendran (whose hand was broken in custody for burning the national flag) incidents of violation of oppressed classes is evident.
The teenager’s arrest, said to be a case of mistaken identity, could remind one of the 2014 Tamil political drama, Madras directed by P Ranjith in which a dialogue would be casually woven in the introduction scenes - Area la evan thappu pannalum, policekaran housing board aala dan pudichtu povaan (For any crime, police will pick up the housing board dwellers only).