Dear reader, we regret to inform you that the war on drugs has needlessly claimed another life, this time in southwest India where a man was arrested for MDMA possession shortly before dying in police custody.
Several different Indian news outlets have reported that Thamir Jiffri, age 30, was arrested in the early morning hours of August 1 in Tanur, a town of about 50,000 people in Kerala, India. He was arrested with four others for drug possession charges and died around 4:30 in the morning from what police said was a drug overdose.
The problem is police testimony directly conflicts with both accusations from the victim’s family as well as the post mortem examination. Jiffri’s family has publicly alleged that Thamir was not in fact arrested in Tanur on August 1 as police have attested. The family has accused the police of coming into their home in nearby Chelari, about a 20 minute drive to the northeast, the previous evening, beating Thamir in front of them and arresting him.
A public outcry followed Jiffri’s death. The following is a statement made by Indian Union Muslim League leader N. Samsudheen, a member of 15th Kerala Legislative Assembly:
“Jiffri was taken to the police quarters and subjected to third-degree torture. The postmortem report revealed that 21 wounds were inflicted on his body. This in itself is a proof of the kind of torture he was subjected to. Although Jiffri was taken into custody from his place at Chelari, the police claimed that he was arrested from under the railway bridge at Tanur. It has now also been revealed that he was sodomized in police custody.”
Eight police officers were suspended following Jiffri’s death. Samsudheen has publicly demanded the Malappuram Superintendent of Police be suspended as well.
“We raised the issue in the assembly. Regrettably, the government is yet to take appropriate action against the SP. We suspect the possibility of the SP’s involvement or knowledge in the custodial torture. To facilitate an unhindered investigation by the CBI, we firmly demand the removal of Malappuram SP,” Samsudheen said.
The postmortem examination referenced above also showed that two packets of a crystalline substance were found in Jiffri’s abdomen, though tracking down much more detail than that has proven difficult from my desk in California.
All of this information has been put together from about 10 different articles in Indian/East Asian news outlets, almost none of which fully agree with each other on every detail surrounding this case. To that end, about half of them spell Thamir’s name “Tamir Jiffri” or “Tamir/Thamir Geoffrey.” I don’t know if this is because accurate information is hard to come by in certain parts of the world or because online translators take certain auto-programmed liberties which can often lead to errors. It could be any number of things.
What I DO know is a young man appears to have been arrested either at his home or in a nearby town with some MDMA on him, a drug very near and dear to my own heart. That young man was dead hours later and a postmortem examination showed he took one hell of a beating before he died. All the police involved have been suspended and Jiffri’s family and local representatives have been demanding action be taken ever since.
It is also worth mentioning here that India has some extremely stringent laws regarding drug possession and use. Possession of small quantities of drugs in India is punishable by six months imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. Large amounts get you 10-20 years and habitual offenders are eligible for the death penalty. This is small beer compared to a country like Singapore where 15 people have been executed in the last year for drug use, but still a terrifying reality for anyone who wants to eat or sell a bit of Molly in India.
Thamir Jiffri’s family, Kerala Police, Malappuram Police and any of the journalists who wrote the articles I referenced did not return my attempts to contact them. Nonetheless, limited details of this terribly tragic situation have made their way all the way from Kerala, India to the West Coast of America, where pretty soon we’ll be paying exorbitant prices for some guy named Indica to doll us out two points of MDMA from his silly little doctor’s office in Palo Alto. At the risk of editorializing a bit, we mustn’t let stories like Thamir’s go untold as we fight to end the drug war in America because overseas they get executed, put into work camps, or allegedly beaten to death in police stations.