A team of human rights and civil liberty activists from Karnataka, Kerala and Delhi conducted a fact-finding exercise in Mangaluru, Karnataka, where two people were killed in police firing after protests turned violent, scores were injured, and properties were damaged.
It prepared a report after meeting the families of the deceased, injured persons and their families, shopkeepers, administration and others in the Ibrahim Khaleel mosque, personnel in the Highland Hospital, the district medical officer Dr Rajeshwari Devi of Wenlock Hospital, and commissioner of police Dr PS Harsha.
Heavy police deployment, including that of external Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) forces was in place with preparations of arrangement of sand bags and riot gear being undertaken at the location. On December 19, 2019 there were anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)/ National Population Register (NPR) protests held in Mangaluru city that were met with police action.
Two people were killed in Mangaluru in police firing after protests allegedly turned violent, and scores were injured, properties were damaged and several criminal cases were filed and with people also being arrested.
After this incident, Karnataka chief minister announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the families for each of the deceased, only to withdraw it later. He also accused the people who had come in from Kerala for allegedly setting a police station ablaze and damaging public property after which the Kerala government intervened to make a safe passage for the people to get back to their home state.
The first incident appeared to have occurred around 1.30 pm, when a handful of youth attempted to protest against the CAA but were dispersed by the police, which used excessive violence against them.
From the videos circulating widely, it is apparent that their number was not more than 150 and that they were only shouting slogans. The protesters were violently thrashed, kicked, pushed around and abused before being thrown into police vans without any provocation in a premeditated manner. The police came down upon them with disproportionate force and violence.
There was some confusion amongst the youth about whether or not the protest announced for that day had been cancelled, as the message of cancellation issued after imposition of prohibitory orders under section 144 had not circulated to all.
The police then went on a rampage and stormed into shops in the vicinity, pulling out people, selectively attacking Muslims. At around 4 pm, a team of police attacked Ibrahim Khaleel mosque where about 80 persons were praying peacefully.
The police apparently sought to chase certain youth into the said mosque and then initiated an indiscriminate attack upon the mosque. The police launched an attack of stones and teargas through and above the slats of the mosque gate, causing havoc and confusion.
When the infuriated youth retaliated with intermittent stone pelting, the leaders of the community were brought in by the police to calm the situation. It was during this time, that the former mayor of Mangaluru was hurt on the head by the police which again aggravated the situation.
At this point, the police began indiscriminate firing of guns and teargas. Two innocent bystanders were killed during this firing, both of which took place on Azizuddin Road, where the Mangaluru North Police Station is located.
One of them was a 42-year old father of two and daily wage earner on the docks, who had stepped out of his house to offer Namaz. There was no mob present, yet tear gas and bullets was being fired into the road, one of which hit Abdul Jaleel in the head.
In another incident on another end of Azizuddin Road, 23-year old Nausheen who was attempting to return home from the workshop he was working at, fell prey to the blind and indiscriminate firing when a bullet hit him in his midriff.
The Highland Hospital where many of the seriously injured were admitted, reported that there were 5 persons admitted with bullet and shell linked injuries.
Both were declared dead when they were on arrival by the Highland Hospital. Jaleel and Nausheen’s families filed complaints with the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the hospital administration filed a complaint and wanted action to be taken against the responsible personnel but no action was taken in this regard.
However, the police even attacked the Highland Hospital demanding that the bodies be handed over to them as they were Medico Legal Cases (MLCs). The police upon arrival at the hospital were faced by an angry group of mourners, who pelted stones at the police outside the hospital.
All the CCTV DVRs were taken away by the police allegrdly in an attempt by the police to cover their tracks
The police engaged in lathi charge outside the hospital. They did not stop there. The police then fired tear gas within the hospital compound and proceeded to storm the hospital. They tried to barge into patient rooms including the ICU.
Dr Rajeshwari Devi, district medical officer, Wenlock Hospital, informed that on December 19, 66 people were treated in the OPD of which 26 were civilians and 42 were police persons. Police continued to get treatment from the OPD till December 22.
Apparently there were conscious attempts on the part of the police to make it appear that the number of policemen injured by the alleged stone pelting by the mob outnumbered civilians who suffered injuries from violence by police.
The cases of police treated in Wenlock were mostly related to bruises, lacerations, contusions and swelling. There were two cases of bullet injuries in which one of the victims admitted took discharge immediately.
On December 20, 2019, too, the police beat up people who came out of the masjid after their offering their prayers. The curfew had been lifted during those hours (12:00 PM to 2:00 PM) and when the people questioned the police as to why they were beaten up, the police simply said that they did not know of the curfew being revoked.
The police also targeted shops and street stalls owned by the Muslim community. Some open FIRs mention the accused as ‘Unknown Muslim Youth’. The attack on the masjid and people coming out of the masjid, that all who were admitted either for bullet/shell injuries and severe injuries due to lathi charge even on those alighting from buses, were all Muslim indicates that the police force has been communalized.
Within 2 days of the incidents, all the CCTV DVRs have been taken away by the police. Based on the criticism that the police have already faced, it is alleged that this was done in an attempt by the police to cover their tracks. Similarly, on the matter of the internet ban, it appears that it was done only to prevent videos about the police violence from being circulated.