Custodial death of Kuravar tribal man in Tamil Nadu

On April 27, 2022, K. Thangamani (47),a tribal belonging to the Kuravar community, died in judicial custody due to alleged police torture in Tiruvannamalai district, Tamil Nadu. A resident of Thattaranai village under Perunkolathur village panchayat in Thandarampattu block in Tiruvannamalai district, Thangamani was picked up from his house around 9.30 a.m. on April 26, 2022 by the Prohibition Enforcement Wing (PEW) officials for questioning regarding the sale of spurious liquor (arrack). On the same day, he was remanded by the local court to judicial custody and lodged at the Thiruvannamalai sub-jail.Thangamani died at Thiruvannamalai Government Medical College Hospital in the evening of April 27. Police claimed that he died after suffering seizure (fits) while being lodged at the sub-jail. However, family members and relatives of the deceased have alleged that the police have filed a false case against the deceased as he belonged to the Kuravartribe and that the police had sought a bribe to remove the deceased’s name from the case. The deceased’s son, Dinakaran and wife T. Malar have alleged custodial death due to torture by the police. They stated that Thangamani was watching TV at the time when the anti-narcotics wing i.e. PEW officials came and took him for interrogation. They have alleged that some police officials asked the family to pay a bribe of Rs 1 lakh in order to remove Thangamani’s name from the spurious liquor case. Since the bribe was not paid, the police allegedly tortured the victim leading to his death.

A study conducted by a Madurai-based NGO namely People’s Organisation for People Education (POPE) on the Kuravar community found that “The members of the community were continuously targeted, false cases were filed against them and they were subjected to torture by the police.” Due to foisting of false cases against them, members of the Kuravar community are often labelled as criminals and anti-socials and they were avoided by the members of other communities.

The custodial death case of Thangamani has been transferred to the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) for investigation. Departmental action in the form of transfer has been taken against four PEW officialsnamely PEW Deputy Superintendent of Police Rajan, Inspector Nirmala, and constables Jayachandran and Jayakumar.

Following the custodial deaths of Thangamani and another person namely Vignesh, the Director General of Police (DGP) of Tamil Nadu, C Sylendra Babu on May 3, 2022 ordered all police personnel in the state to not detain suspects in police stations late at night.

IRAC has filed a complaint before the NHRC following which Case No. 1189/22/39/2022-AD has been registered by the NHRC.