Rajan case

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P. Rajan
Died1 March 1976
Kerala, India
Cause of deathTorture
Known forUnlawful arrest and subsequent death in custody

The Rajan case refers to the death of P. Rajan, a student of the Regional Engineering College, Calicut, as a result of torture in local police custody in Kerala during the nationwide Emergency in India in 1976, and the legal battle that followed, which revealed facts of the incident[1][2] to the public. His remains are yet to be recovered.


During the nationwide Emergency in India between 1975 and 1977, Fundamental Rights of the citizen were suspended by the government, creating a period of police activism.[1] In Kerala, the Naxal movement was at its peak during this period. Major operations of Naxals in Kerala were attacks on police stations in rural areas. The police acted with vengeance upon the Naxalites and used the word Naxal to address those upon whom they had vengeance.[citation needed]


Rajan, a student of the Calicut Regional Engineering College (presently the National Institute of Technology Calicut), was arrested by the Kerala Police on 1 March 1976,[3] during the nationwide Emergency in India along with his fellow student, Joseph Chaaly. As was later revealed by a petition in the High Court of Kerala, he was held in police custody and tortured as part of the interrogation. He died from torture of extreme kind,[4] especially due to something called uruttal (a practice of "rolling" a heavy wooden log over the body of the victim). His body was then disposed of by the police, and was never recovered.

Rajan's father, T. V. Eachara Warrier, complained to the authorities about his missing son. The police finally confirmed that he died in custody upon a habeas corpus suit, the first such suit in the history of Kerala, filed by his father in the High Court of Kerala.[5]

Inquiries by family[edit]

Rajan's mother had become mentally unstable from the developments and was hospitalised. His father, T. V. Eachara Warrier, lost all of his money but he did not know why his son was arrested, that he made enquiries to police officers, who, he felt, would be able to give him the details about his son's arrest and also about his whereabouts. He made representations to the authorities, which produced no result. Somehow, he discovered that Rajan had been arrested under directions of the DIG of Police, Crime Branch, Trivandrum. He met the then Home Minister of the State K. Karunakaran. He sent petitions to the Home Secretary to the government of Kerala thrice. There was not even a single reply or acknowledgment.

Mr. Warrier continued his efforts at getting some information about his son by similar representations made to the President of India and Home Minister to the government of India with copies to all the Members of Parliament from Kerala. He made similar representations to the Prime Minister of India and others, all to no effect. He met several police officers and learned that some arrested students similarly were detainees in the Central Jail. He was vigorously searching in vain for his son in the three Central Jails and also in the various other police camps and other places. He met the Chief Minister several times because the Chief Minister had personal knowledge of the arrest of his son and also of his detention. On the last occasion he met Sri. Achutha Menon, who expressed his helplessness in the matter and said that the matter was being dealt with by K. Karunakaran, Minister for Home Affairs.

He appealed to the general public in Kerala by expressing his grievance in a pamphlet distributed to the public. The Home Minister who was a candidate in the recent elections addressed several public meetings in Mala, Kalpetta and other constituencies of the State and in some of the meetings he made mention of the fact that Rajan was involved as an accused in a murder case and that was why he was detained. Rajan was never produced before a Magistrate.[6]


Rajan's father fought a long battle against the establishment to bring to light the facts behind the disappearance and expose atrocities committed by the state. The petition and subsequent investigations found that Rajan had indeed been taken into custody, and perhaps died when in police custody. His body was not found, and many charges against the accused in this case had to be dropped. The accused included the chief of the Crime Branch wing of Kerala Police, DIG Jayaram Padikkal, who was convicted but the conviction was overturned on appeal.[7] Karunakaran was the Home Minister during the emergency. He resigned from the post of the Chief Minister of Kerala in 1978 from adverse judgement in the case. Warrier wrote the book, Memories of a Father, narrating his fights.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

The 2018 Malayalam movie Kaattu Vithachavar directed by Satheesh Paul presents investigation by a police team to disappearance of Rajan. The movie acted by Prakash Bare, Tini Tom Jayaprakash Kuloor provides a factual review of events, though the names of characters have been slightly changed.

The 1988 Malayalam film Piravi directed by Shaji N. Karun has its plotline adopted from this incident. The 2013 Malayalam film Idukki Gold references the case. Raman, one of the protagonists, throws ink at the Kerala Home Minister in protest against the Rajan case not being resolved. Malayalam movie Sahapaadi (1975), also touches the issue.

In 1977, the All Kerala Rajan Memorial Music Competition was started at the National Institute of Technology Calicut (then known as REC Calicut) to commemorate Rajan's life. Every year since 1987, the Institute conducts their annual cultural festival Ragam in memory of Rajan.[8] In 2006, Ragam festival started with an audio message delivered by Rajan's father Eachara Warrier.[9]

C. R. Omanakuttan has written a book named Shavamtheenikal which is an expose of the brutality involved in the incident.

In 2006 an experimental theatre work Ormakal Zindabad. (Memories long live) staged in certain places in Kerala, directed by G. Ajayan based on the custodial death of Rajan. The parts of leading characters Jayaram Padikkal and Rajan were done by Salih Rawther and Shabu Madhavan respectively.

'Ormakal Zindabad'.jpg

The 2021 Tamil movie Jai Bhim, directly references the Rajan case as an example of a habeas corpus wherein the rare occurrence of a cross examination in a high court as grounds for not producing a detainee by the state police is permitted.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Iype, George (26 June 2000). "Emergency: 'Rajan's mother died asking for him'". Rediff.com. Retrieved 11 August 2019.
  2. ^ "Fresh probe in Rajan case sought". The Hindu. 25 January 2011. Archived from the original on 1 March 2011.
  3. ^ "What Happened to the Rajan Case ?". People's Union for Civil Liberties website Archives. October 1981. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
  4. ^ "Once there was a hero". The Indian Express. 2 November 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
  5. ^ Veṅṅānūr Bālakr̥ṣṇan (1997). Jayar̲āṃ Paṭikkalint̲e kr̲aiṃ ḍayari. Dhanuṣmān Grūp ōph Pabḷikkēṣans. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
  6. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). www.ahrchk.net. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 January 2011. Retrieved 15 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Once there was a hero..." The Indian Express. 2 November 2010. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  8. ^ Special, Correspondant (10 January 2020). "Ragam fest inaugurated at NIT-C". thehindu.com.
  9. ^ Staff Reporter. "Colourful start to Ragam". hindu.com. Archived from the original on 3 March 2006.
  10. ^ "ന്യായം, നീതി: മനസ് തുറന്നു കാണേണ്ട സിനിമ".

External links[edit]