The Tamil Nadu police’s brutal violence against the state’s weakest citizens


The murder of K Armstrong, the head of the Bahujan Samaj Party’s Tamil Nadu unit, has brought the question of crime in the state into the national conversation. The state’s police has come in for particular criticism because the leader was murdered in Sembium, a heavily policed area in the neighbourhood of North Madras.

In fact, residents of the neighbourhood, which is largely inhabited by poorer communities, live with the constant fear that they or their family members will be picked up by the police on the basis of false allegations – and that once they are, they will be subjected to custodial torture, for which the state’s police has acquired a grim reputation. Data bears this out. Between 2018 and 2023, Tamil Nadu saw 36 custodial deaths, the highest among south Indian states.

Johanna Deeksha met several families who have suffered unimaginable pain at the hands of the state police. Incredibly, in each case, victims or their families have taken the step of filing formal complaints against members of the police who subjected them to violence. 

“It was always known that Tamil Nadu has a problem of custodial violence,” Deeksha said. “But through this story I was also able to understand how much people’s lives change after such incidents happen to them or their families.” She added, “There is a desperate need for law that will address atrocities committed by the police.”

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Ajay Krishnan,
Senior Editor

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