Fight about dead son for 20 years

Cherthala, June 12
It was a fatherÂ’s battle for justice for 20 long years. But when the law finally caught up with the perpetrators he was not there to witness it.

For 11 years Thankappan, a daily labourer, had preserved his sonÂ’s body soaked in formalin (a disinfectant and preservative) in a concrete tank he had especially built for the purpose after Gopi, 21, died mysteriously in police custody in 1988 in a Kerala village.

Although the police had claimed Gopi had committed suicide by stabbing himself with a fluorescent tube, the distraught father refused to believe it and vowed not to cremate his sonÂ’s body until justice was done. Thankappan had to wait for 11 years before the Kerala High Court order an inquiry into the role of the then circle inspector of Cherthala police station Srikanadan Nair and Sub-Inspector Prabhakaran. It was then, in 1999, that the old man cremated GopiÂ’s body.

After 20 years, the Chief Judicial MagistrateÂ’s court found Nair and Prabhakaran, who had retired as Deputy Superintendents of Police, guilty of illegally detaining Gopi and sentenced them to one year rigorous imprisonment.

Gopi, a mosaic worker and captain of the village Kabaddi team, was charged by the duo with theft and was taken to the police station on October 17. When Thankappan went to meet his son he was not allowed inside. The following day, the policemen informed him that Gopi had committed suicide and he could collect the body from the local hospital.

After preserving his sonÂ’s body in the concrete tank, Thankappan petitioned for a probe alleging that GopiÂ’s death under mysterious circumstances at the police station was the fallout of a spat with a police constable during a Kabaddi match and the theft charge was fabricated.

GopiÂ’s death was probed by both the Crime Branch and the CBI and was reported as suicide. While GopiÂ’s body lay in the tank, his father ran from door to door for justice. It was only the High Court order to probe all aspects of GopiÂ’s illegal detention that made the old man finally cremate his son.

While the legal battle was on Thankappan died in 2005. “Gopi was killed by the policemen no matter what the inquiry reports revealed. It was common knowledge. It did not help our cause that many witnesses in the case turned hostile. His father was heartbroken after fighting so long for justice,” said Gopi’s mother Janaki.

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