Two men in the southern state of Tamil Nadu were allegedly subjected to a brutal thrashing that resulted in rectal bleeding and eventual death.

A church priest consoles family members of Jayaraj, 58, and son Bennicks Immanuel, 31, allegedly tortured at the hands of police in Sathankulam, Thoothukudi district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu on June 28, 2020.
A church priest consoles family members of Jayaraj, 58, and son Bennicks Immanuel, 31, allegedly tortured at the hands of police in Sathankulam, Thoothukudi district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu on June 28, 2020. (AFP)

India has arrested five policemen over the deaths of a father and son in custody, following outrage that drew comparisons to the death of George Floyd in the United States.

Last week the men, J Jayaraj, 59, and Bennicks Immanuel, 31, were allegedly subjected to a brutal thrashing that resulted in rectal bleeding and eventual death, according to a letter to government officials written by Jayaraj's wife J Selvarani.

"All important police personnel involved in the incident have been arrested," K Shankar, Crime Branch Central Investigation Department inspector general of police in Tamil Nadu, said on Thursday

"The investigation continues," Shankar said, adding that a murder case has been filed on the arrested policemen, who include two sub-inspectors, two constables and the police station's inspector.

Outcry on social media

Hundreds of thousands of tweets were sent out using the hashtag #JusticeforJayarajandBennix, that was among the top Twitter topics trending in India last Friday and among the top 30 trending globally, with many comparing the deaths to that of George Floyd.

Rahul Gandhi, a leader of the opposition Congress party, described it as a "tragedy when our protectors turn into oppressors".

Violence in custody rampant

Bennicks died on Monday after complaining of breathlessness and Jayaraj died on Tuesday, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, who oversees the police in the state, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Police in Sathankulam, a town located 50 km south of the port city of Thoothukudi in southern Tamil Nadu state, said the duo were picked up for breaching coronavirus lockdown rules.

Nearly 15 cases of custodial violence and torture were reported daily on average, according to India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The NHRC said in its report that some custodial deaths were reported after a considerable delay or not reported at all, adding violence in custody was so rampant "that it has become almost routine". 

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies