Bengaluru: 23-year-old Dalit man dies in police custody; family alleges torture

Vinod was picked up on Wednesday, and the cops told his mother he fell at the police station. However, the story has some inconsistencies.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Jan 05, 2023 | 7:43 PMUpdated Jan 05, 2023 | 7:58 PM

Vinod's friends and relatives waiting outside Victoria Hospital's Mortuary

A 23-year-old Dalit youth was found dead at the Cottonpete police station in Bengaluru in the early hours of Thursday, 5 January.

The matter is being treated as a case of custodial death.

The Station House Officer (SHO) claimed to have spotted the youth, identified as Vinod Ramachandran, a resident of Jolly Mohalla, lying unconscious inside the police station lockup cell on Thursday morning.

He said he rushed Vinod to Victoria Hospital, where the youth was declared brought dead.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (West Division) Laxman B Nimbargi was quick to respond.

He said Vinod had a pending non-bailable warrant (NBW) against him. This was why he was brought to the police station on Wednesday, and was sleeping, said the top cop.

Deceased Vinod (23) Victim of Custodial Death

Vinod, the deceased. (Supplied)

Around 3.45 am, the SHO checked on him and found him unconscious, said Nimbargi, adding that Vinod was then taken to Victoria Hospital, where he was declared dead.

“We are treating it as a case of custodial death. All the procedures as per NHRC guidelines will be followed, and the case will be handed over to the CID. He was about produce to court today (Thursday),” Nimbargi stated.

He later told South First: “Since it’s a case of custodial death, a judicial magistrate will conduct the inquiry when a group of doctors performs the post-mortem examination.”

Nimbargi added: “They will file a report on whether the wound [found on the back of his head] was fresh or an old one, and also the health condition of the victim. And if we find any foul play in his death, we will definitely take action against the policemen involved.”

Locals allege torture

Vinod’s brother Subramani R told South First: “On Wednesday, around 12.30 pm, two policemen came on a motorcycle to the Kurla stand in Jolly Mohalla, where Vinod was sitting with a few friends.”

The cops apparently told him that there was a warrant pending against him, and they took him along with them to the police station.

“Around 5 am on Thursday, three policemen came to Jolly Mohalla asking for Vinod’s mother. After the locals helped the cops to find his mother, they told her that her son was in a serious condition,” said Jancy, head of the Jolly Mohalla Slum Mahila Sangatane, a local women’s organisation in the area.

“However, a man from Jolly Mohalla working at Victoria Hospital informed Vinod’s brother that he was already dead,” she told South First.

“The hospital worker also told Vinod’s brother that he had seen blood on the back of Vinod’s head, something the mortuary watchman had also witnessed. It is a clear case of custodial torture leading to the death of Vinod, and moreover, he belongs to the Scheduled Caste,” she said.

“The police kept Vinod’s mother to them and did not allow her to meet us. Two policewomen were always escorting her, and kept her to the police team. Whenever she came to us, she kept saying that her son fell at the police station and died, as tutored by the cops,” claimed Jancy.

“The police told Vinod’s brother Subramani not to speak to them or anyone else as he had apparently consumed alcohol, but Subramani does not have the habit of drinking. They (the cops) are just trying to bury the case,” she told South First.

Police caught lying?

When Subramani asked the cops how his brother fell in the station, they told him that he fell on his back and hit his head and fell unconscious.

“On Thursday morning, the same policemen were telling people from Jolly Mohalla that Vinod had died of a possible heart attack,” Subramani told South First.

The post-mortem examination was conducted at the Victoria Hospital, after which the body was handed over to the family.

When the family members asked the police why Vinod was not produced before the court after he was picked up on Wednesday afternoon, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) told them that they had taken him for a Covid-19 test before producing him in court.

Asked if this test was conducted, the cops had no answers.

Meanwhile, Jancy, told South First that this was not the first time the police had picked up youths from the Jolly Mohalla slum.

“They (the cops) consider everyone in the slum criminals, and randomly pick up young men from the Jolly Mohalla slum. Only after we pay the money that they demand are the youths released from police custody,” she said.

The pending case

According to a senior police officer, Vinod was arrested in 2017 by the Cottonpete police — when he was 19 years old — along with four others in connection with a case under IPC Sections 399 (preparing to commit dacoity) and 402 (assembling to commit dacoity).

Two policemen attached to the Cottonpete police station were on their night patrolling duty on the intervening night of 20 and 21 April, 2017, when they received information that four-five people were wielding weapons near the Veterinary Hospital compound on Mysore Road in Bengaluru and were committing robbery and extortion from lone commuters and night-time vendors.

The patrolling team passed this on to the police station, and headed towards the spot with more policemen. They then surrounded the gang and arrested them.

The police recovered several weapons — two knives, two wooden logs, and a packet of chilly powder — from them. Vinod was also a part of the gang and was mentioned as A4 — the fourth accused — in the case.

The accused were produced before the magistrate, who remanded them to judicial custody.

Vinod eventually came out on bail and did not attend court hearings.

An NBW was pending against him, according to the Cottonpete police, and he was picked up on Wednesday so that he could be produced before the court on Thursday.