Amid spiralling anger over the deaths in Tamil Nadu of a man and his son arrested for keeping their shop open beyond permitted hours, security footage appears to contradict claims that the two men had resisted arrest and fought with the police.
CCTV footage from Tuticorin has captured Jeyaraj, 59, and his son Beniks, 31, in the moments before they were arrested by the Sathankulam police on June 19 for violating coronavirus lockdown rules by keeping their mobile phone store open 15 minutes beyond curfew.
The timer on the CCTV footage shows well beyond 9 PM. NDTV cannot vouch for the veracity of the footage.
The seven-and-a-half minute footage from the evening of June 19 shows no argument at least in camera view as the FIR filed by the police claims. Neither does it show any "rolling around" by the men, which the police had alleged was part of the heated fight that led to the arrest of the father-son pair.
Jeyaraj is seen standing outside his shop talking on the mobile, then walking out of the camera's view. Later a small group watches from his shop. Then Beniks is seen rushing out, apparently after his father. It's not clear what happened off camera.
Beniks and some men return after a while, without Jeyaraj, presumed at this point to have been taken into custody. Beniks hops on a bike and leaves the shop.
The two men were allegedly subjected to brutal torture that night at the police station. Their family alleges they had severe internal and external wounds, including rectal bleeding.
The day after their arrest, a magistrate reportedly sent them to judicial custody without looking at the men, who were in a police vehicle, their bodies allegedly bearing signs of savage beating.
Beniks, whose wounds horrified his family members, died on June 22 while his father died the next day.
The FIR alleges the two men had verbally abused the police and were injured when they rolled around on the street, trying to fight arrest. Senior police officers NDTV tried to contact for a response did not respond to calls.
The tragic deaths have been compared to the killing in the US of George Floyd, a black man who suffocated when a police officer pinned him down with a knee while arresting him, choking him in the process. Protests that started in the US have now spread to various parts of the world.
People across India, including activists, politicians and celebrities have demanded murder charges against the policemen involved. The police have only registered a case of suspicious deaths till now. The state government has decided to hand over the investigation to the CBI, which, some activists say, could dilute the case and delay justice for Jeyaraj and Beniks.