PUCL Bulletin, Januar 2002

Karnataka: Mangalore PUCL
Police Atrocities and Human Rights Violations at Katipalla

By P.B. D'Sa

Thursday 23rd morning about 100 men in uniform stormed the Katipalla town with Lathis, Tear Gas cells and guns to the utter shock of the unsuspecting citizens of this locality .The Police personnel beat up every person they could lay their hands upon irrespective of their age, sex or social standing. The Police forcibly entered at least a hundred houses and indulged in indiscriminate rampage. In some houses they forcibly broke open the doors and damaged household articles. They dragged out every male person found in the houses or in streets and brutally assaulted them before thrusting them into waiting Police vehicles. They used extremely foul language against the members of the families and in many cases misbehaved with the women folk.

Obviously there was no provocation whatsoever from the inhabitants of the area for this high handed and inhuman attitude of the police personnel. In fact one local bus driver who belongs to the Muslim Community had been assassinated two days prior to this incident by an armed gang of hooligans at a place close to this locality. But people of this locality where members of the Muslim Community who occupy a predominant position were sane enough not to give any communal color to the incident and were with full sense of responsibility waiting for the judicial machinery to take its own course on the case. Although a bundh was observed on 22nd August the local Muslim community had absolutely no role to play in this bandh because the bundh was in fact called by Bus Workers Association, Mangalore.

Thus, having proven that they are law-abiding citizens and having refused to be provoked even after the brutal murder of a member of their community they naturally never expected the police forces to be hostile against them. One may recall areas were up in flames due to communal riots. People of this particular area in the 2nd block, Katipalla had successfully ensured that their area remained peaceful. Hence a wholesale and indiscriminate attack against them was the last thing they expected from the police.

On 23rd August morning when the situation in the locality was perfectly normal at around 9 a.m. people were busy shopping. In fact these shops had remained closed the previous day. Many people had come there accompanying their children studying in one of three schools situated in the proximity. As the school hours were yet to commence there were many school children all around. It was in this backdrop that Mr. H.R.S. Shetty, Circle Inspector of Police arrived in a jeep along with another vehicle and accompanied by about a dozen uniformed men. His first target was one Abdul Salam, a young businessman and social activist. Mr. Shetty approached him using extremely foul language and dragged him all the way to the Police van and brutally assaulted him with his cane before dumping him into the van. Shocked at this brutal sight the people around came together and some of them sat down on the road protesting Mr. Shetty's highhandedness and demanded the release of Abdul Salam. This response of the people was totally spontaneous and was provoked by the fact that Mr. Abdul Salam who was known to them as a law-abiding citizen and was not guilty of any crime, was being treated in this cruel manner. Taken aback by this spontaneous response of the local citizens Mr. Shetty agreed to free Mr. Abdul Salam from his illegal custody. On being released Mr. Abdul Salam came out of the van and requested the crowd to disperse peacefully. At this stage a few stones landed on the sitting crowd and on some police personnel obviously thrown by school going children who were witnessing the bizarre happenings. Having seen this Mr. Salam rushed to prevent the boys from this mischief. It was at this moment that the superintendent of Police Mr. Seemanth Kumar Singh came menacingly to the scene along with a few police vehicles and a couple of dozen uniformed personnel. Without even bothering to spend, even a moment to assess the situation, he straightaway ordered lathi charge against the crowd, which had already started dispersing. Police personnel started chasing and assaulting people indiscriminately. Even while people were trying to run away from the wrath of the police, the men in uniform fired tear gas shells in all directions and the beatings continued. After a long spree of indiscriminate beating the police first entered the shops and started dragging people out and dumping them into police vans. Even old people were not spared. Later the police started forcibly entering the houses in the locality. At places where people were too scared and shocked to open the doors the police broke open the doors and ransacked the houses.

Following are only a few among many extremely foul remarks passed by the police personnel targeting the Muslim community during the process of their uncalled-for house to house raids.

You Muslims deserve to be dispatched to Pakistan. You have no place in India. Right now we need only men. We will come in the night to pick your women. You Muslims have been spoiled by eating too much of cow meat. You Bearys (alluding to the Muslim community in the District) are anti nationals.

This entirely inhuman operation ended up in the arrest of 69 persons of the locality. Incidentally not a single person there arrested has any previous criminal record and even during the time of arrest obviously there was no charge existing against them. It was only at the later stage that the police attempted to concoct an entire story of their own and framed false charges against the arrested in order to justify their false charges against the arrested in order to justify their own atrocities and inhuman acts.

Out of the 69 persons arrested on 23rd August 2001,42 were released on the same day late in the night. The rest 27 were released on 29th August 2001. Most of those who were released on 23rd night have complained that they have been subjected to severe physical assault and torture by the police at Panambur Police Station. They were ridiculed, humiliated and thus were tortured mentally too by the police. The personnel used extremely offending words against their faith, religion and religious practices. Most of these persons showed obvious marks of Police beating on the different parts of their bodies. Those 27 persons who were released on 30th August 2001 had to go to the hospital for treatment. Eight of them had been admitted in the hospital for the treatment of wound and fractured wrist, this was because of the frequent assault by the Police.

The most surprising aspect of the whole dirty episode is that the police resorted to such inhuman treatment without any provocation. In fact it was only after unleashing their terror against the civilian that the police engaged themselves in covering up false evidences to protect themselves. For instance, after beating up almost all the inhabitants of the second block and after having created an atmosphere of terror in the area the Police went to a nearby house and forced the women in the house to hand over the key of the car which was parked well inside the compound of the house. The Police brought this car to the middle of the second block junction and after parking it there, they brought empty soda bottles from the nearby shops and piled them up in the vehicle along with the piled up bottles. People of the locality who were witness to this drama have reasons to doubt that this might be a conspiracy by the Police to create false evidence against the unsuspecting masses.

In the late night of August 23rd 2001, the Police took those 27 accused to the residence of the JMFC II Court Magistrate all the accused had told them that they had been brutally beaten up by the Police by dragging at their houses and he was convinced then. But unfortunately in his report the Magistrate has written otherwise. He had given the police clean chit saying the accused had got the injury in the incident itself; this was really shocking.

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