Thousands stand up to support a man’s sit-in for justice in Kerala

Kerala, Kerala man sit-in protest, CBI, Kerala custodial death case, Puthenveetil Sreejith fast, Puthenveetil Sreejith protets, Pinarayi Vijayan, Indian express

Puthenveetil Sreejith wants action against police for his brother’s custodial death. (Express Photo)

A KERALA youth’s lonely battle seeking a CBI probe into the “custodial death” of his younger brother snowballed into a mass protest on Sunday as his sit-in in front of the state secretariat turned 765 days.

Social media helped transform it from Puthenveetil Sreejith’s individual struggle to a people’s struggle, with a campaign begun a few days ago under the hashtag #justiceforsreejith.

As the protest gathered support, the government on Sunday said it will request the CBI a second time in about six months to probe the alleged custodial death of Sreejeev, Sreejith’s younger brother.

On Sunday, thousands of people converged in front of the secretariat, where Sreejith, from Parasala village of Thiruvananthapuram district, has been on an indefinite agitation demanding action against police officials who, the family says, are responsible for custodial death of his brother Sreejeev in 2014.

Joining the protesters, who had organised themselves through various social media groups, was young film actor Tovino Thomas, who said he learnt about the agitation “very late” but came to support a “genuine” demand. “No one will sit on an agitation for more than 700 days if it is not a genuine demand. I too have a brother, and I cannot sit back if someone troubles him,” Thomas said. “Sreejith’s is a model agitation. I hope my presence brings in more people to join this movement.”

Protesters join Puthenveetil Sreejith. (Express Photo)

A communication from the Chief Minister’s Office said the chief secretary has written again to the Centre, demanding a CBI probe into the alleged custodial death. “The state government had written to the Personnel and Training Department in July last year in this regard,” the statement said. “However, CBI had refused the state’s demand, saying that the case is not one of… exceptional nature, warranting investigation by CBI…”

The state, the CM’s office said, wants CBI to “review this earlier stand”.

On March 21, 2014, Sreejeev, 27, died at a Thiruvananthapuram hospital, allegedly due to police torture.

The Congress-led UDF was in office at the time.

The youth had been taken into custody for alleged theft. While the police claimed that Sreejeev had committed suicide by consuming poison, which he had ostensibly concealed in his inner wear while being taken into custody, the police complaints authority, which probed into the incident, called it custodial death.

The authority, headed by retired High Court judge K Narayana Kurup, had asked the government to pay compensation of Rs 10 lakh to Sreejeev’s family.

On Sunday, Sreejith said, “I will continue this sit-in until my death if I don’t get justice. My brother died after police tortured him. I haven’t got the support of any political parties in this issue so far…. I will go back only after officials responsible for my brother’s death are booked.’’

Source: The Indian Express

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