VILLUPURAM: Tribal rights activists have flayed the Ulundurpet police for taking into custody seven men belonging to Irula community in an ‘inhuman way’ and allegedly verbally abusing family members of the detained men during searches at their houses in the wee hours of Monday.
Even though the police said they would release one of the men on Wednesday evening, the relatives of the detainees said they hadn’t heard from any of them since their detention.
R Vasantha, the mother of 22-year-old R Babu, one of the men in custody, told Express: “My son and daughter-in-law work in a brick kiln in Erode. They were here to attend the temple festival and also do medical check-up for the daughter-in-law as she is pregnant. Around 3.30 am on Monday, four policemen came to our house and dragged Babu to a jeep. When my daughter-in-law asked them the reason for taking Babu away, one of the policemen pushed her away and took my son to the jeep. Immediately, I called the Irular Tribal Association general secretary S Arumugam for help and handed the phone over to police so that they might tell the details to him. But the policemen switched off my phone and said my son had kidnapped a woman for which he was being taken into custody.”
When Vasanthi met Arumugam to seek help, she came to know that six other men, who are their relatives, had also been detained by the police in the same way on Monday.
Reacting to the detention of seven tribal men, general secretary of Irular Welfare Association in Villupuram, V Ramesh, told Express that the six other detainees — M Velu (29) , S Ramu (30), V Velu (29), R Vijayakumar (30), V Shankar (30) and K Manikandan (35) —were labourers at brick kilns in Ulundurpet and Kaatunemili areas, and were taken into custody allegedly without giving them or their family members any explanation. “This is the usual illegal arrest of tribals to close unsolved theft cases,” he alleged, adding “the reason for their detention isn’t clear and their families are worried. Moreover, the police used abusive words to the women in their families and seized financial documents from their houses saying that they were all accused in theft cases.”
However, the police claimed the men had been detained for theft cases but they were not booked yet. “Their faces matched with a few thieves, as recorded in CCTV cameras in the temples where jewels and cash were stolen. We have not registered any case against them, but just an inquiry is going on,” said a police official at the SP office in Villupuram.
Murugappan, Irular welfare activist, said, “The way these men were taken into custody is condemnable. If the police have evidence, they can charge them. But, the way these men were detained without giving any explanation to their families and their illegal custody at the police station are questionable. Why is police acting in an inhumane way in cases involving tribals? The police had assured to question the men and let them go if they were found to be not involved in the crime. But they haven’t done so.”