P Jeyaraj, 58, and his son Fenix, 38, were arrested for allegedly keeping their stores open past permitted hours – Tamil Nadu is still observing a lockdown to curb the spread of Covid.
Both men were kept in police custody an entire night and died within hours of each other two days later.
Relatives of the two men say the men were subjected to brutal torture.
What has happened since their deaths?
As details of the alleged torture emerged, people began demanding action.
State opposition lawmakers have taken to the streets in protest, a traders body has condemned the actions of police, and a local court has taken up the issue for hearing.
The policemen who arrested the two men have been transferred, and the state government has awarded compensation of one million rupees (£10,716; $13,222) to their families.
The incident has also found its way to social media, which has in turn brought it into the national spotlight.
What has the reaction been like?
Initially, many questioned why there is little to no outrage over the deaths of the two men, when so many Indians on social media have been vocal about the fate of George Floyd in the US, whose death at the hands of a white officer has triggered a huge movement against police brutality.
Many Indian social media users have been supporting the protests against white police brutality against black Americans. However, this incident has been slower to pick up, partly because it took place in a smaller city – Thoothukudi, and it took some time to come to the attention of national media.
But in recent days, the issue has begun gaining traction as furious discussion began on various social media platforms. In a video which has had more than a million views, one user said she was “sick of people not discussing what happens in south India because it is not in English” and then proceeded to give a graphic account of the alleged torture of the two men.
There is also massive outrage that the policemen believed to be responsible for the men’s deaths are not being charged with murder and have been merely transferred.
Now high-profile users such as opposition leader Rahul Gandhi and national cricketer Shikhar Dhawan have also tweeted, demanding justice for the two men and more accountability.
Police brutality is a terrible crime. It’s a tragedy when our protectors turn into oppressors. I offer my condolences to the family of the victims and appeal to the government to ensure #JusticeForJeyarajAndFenix https://t.co/sVlqR92L3p— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 26, 2020
Horrified to hear about the brutality inflicted upon Jeyaraj & Fenix in Tamil Nadu. We must raise our voice and make sure justice is given to the family. #JusticeForJeyarajAndFenix— Shikhar Dhawan (@SDhawan25) June 26, 2020
அடிப்பவனுக்கு தேவை ஆயுதம். வலிப்பவருக்கு தேவை காரணம்.இனத்துக்காக, மதத்துக்காக,நிறத்துக்காகன்னு போய், இப்போ எதுக்கு சாகுறோம்னே தெரியாம செத்துப் போயிட்டாங்க அப்பாவும் மகனும்.கடந்து செல்வது எளிதல்ல, நீதி கிடைக்காமல் மறந்து செல்வது மனிதமல்ல. மனிதம் எங்கே#JusticeforJayarajAndFenix— Harbhajan Turbanator (@harbhajan_singh) June 27, 2020
Aghast & ashamed! How barbaric can humankind be in tough times like these? This is an insult to the very essense of humanity. Brutality in all forms & at all levels needs to stop. Justice needs to be served.The law is equal for all & nobody is above it. #JusticeForJeyarajAndFenix— Tamannaah Bhatia (@tamannaahspeaks) June 27, 2020
This is heartbreaking .I am disgusted. This kind of brutality is inhuman and no one has the right to treat another life in this manner .Makes me sick to the stomach. Strength to the family members of the deceased .This should not be tolerated. I demand #JusticeforJayarajAndFenix https://t.co/pPwC2ME8Vr— Rakul Singh (@Rakulpreet) June 27, 2020
This might just be one case out of many but it takes only one case to begin the snowball effect. #JusticeforJayarajAndFenix— taapsee pannu (@taapsee) June 26, 2020
It could’ve been anyone we know. Details are scary and gut wrenching.
#JusticeforJayarajAndFenix— VISHNU VISHAL – stay home stay safe (@TheVishnuVishal) June 26, 2020
Brutality of any kind is unacceptable…
Everyone is equal before law…
All lives are precious..
The Tuticorin incident is deeply saddening.The trauma it would have caused to the victims and to their loved ones is unexplainable. They deserve swift justice. We should come together for this and lots more in the future.#JusticeforJayarajAndFenix— Santhosh Narayanan (@Music_Santhosh) June 26, 2020
'Absolutely Stunned, Sad and Angry. No Human Being Deserves Such Brutality': Priyanka Chopra Reacts Strongly, Demands Justice for Jayaraj and Bennix #JUSTICEFORJAYARAJANDBENNIX https://t.co/iLCHmW3ypZ— India Forums (@indiaforums) June 27, 2020