Kerala opposition, government lock horns over custodial death

Thiruvananthapuram, July 13 (IANS) The custodial death of a Dalit youth in Kottayam echoed in the state legislative assembly on Monday, with the Left opposition demanding immediate action against the police officials concerned.

The Kerala government continued to stick to its stand for a judicial probe into the incident.

“You never demanded a judicial probe. Since we have nothing to hide or to support anyone, we announced a judicial probe into the custodial death and will see that adequate compensation is given to the victim’s family,” Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala said on the floor of the Kerala assembly.

The opposition Left Front is observing a dawn-to-dusk shutdown in Kottayam district on Monday to protest the death of 40-year-old labourer Siby in police custody.

The opposition is demanding strict action against officials of Marangatupally police station who allegedly beat Siby to death. He was picked up on June 29 for a drunken brawl.

Police, however, said Siby suffered a head injury before he was taken into custody. A 17-year-old boy has been detained for injuring him during the brawl.

Siby was admitted to Kottayam Medical College hospital where he passed away on Saturday.

“It was very recently that Chennithala announced that special consideration will be extended to Dalits at police stations. And look, what has happened. Is beating to death the so-called special consideration,” asked former Kerala assembly speaker and senior CPI-M legislator K. Radhakrishnan, while seeking leave for an adjournment motion.

Chennithala, however, hit back at former state home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan who kept on interrupting him while he was speaking.

“When you were the home minister (2006-11), 13 custodial deaths took place and you never did what you are asking now. But since we have nothing to hide and none to defend, we have announced a judicial probe and we will sit together to decide what sort of judicial probe should be held,” said Chennithala.

The Left opposition, smarting under a recent by-election defeat, was not satisfied. Leader of the Opposition, V.S. Achuthanandan, demanded immediate arrest of the guilty police officials.

With the government standing firm on a judicial probe, the opposition members resorted to a sit-in in the well of the House, forcing the speaker to rush through the listed business of the day and adjourn the assembly for the day.

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