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V Vignesh was arrested by the Chennai police for allegedly possessing marijuana and a knife. On April 19, the following day, he died in police custody due to alleged custodial torture. While the officials have denied custodial violence, the family accuses the police of brutality, claiming it to be yet another case of custodial death.

Henri Tiphagne is the founder and executive director of Madurai-based human rights organisation People’s Watch, which works to protect human rights through monitoring human rights violations, intervention, and building solidarity with people’s struggle for human rights. Tiphagne is assisting Vignesh’s aggrieved family through Joint Action Committee against Custodial Torture, fighting for Vignesh’s custodial justice. His insight provides a valuable perspective in the case.

Tiphagne spoke with The Leaflet about the legal implications in this case.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

Q: The police and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister have adopted the narrative of health complications for Vignesh’s death. With your extensive knowledge of the case, could you provide us with information on what transpired on the night of April 18 when Vignesh and Suresh were arrested?

A: On the night of April 18, police stopped Vignesh and his brother-in-law Suresh. who were travelling by an auto-rickshaw in the locality of Kellys, Chennai. Vignesh voluntarily handed over a knife that he claimed to use for sharpening horses’ nails for his occupation as a horse rider. From 11 p.m. on April 18 to 2.30 a.m. on April 19, two teams of police officers gruesomely assaulted Vignesh and Suresh, in the presence of the auto-rickshaw driver. The owner of the horse rode by Vignesh was called on the spot to sign a paper about Vignesh’s employment. Thereafter, they were held at K-2 Ayanavaram police station and continued to be tortured and beaten.

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