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Blame Game on After Mayhem in Mangaluru During Anti-Citizenship Act Protests

While the police allege that they had to open fire in self-defence after issuing several warnings when some protesters got violent last week, several locals and opposition party leaders accuse the department of high-handedness.

D P Satish | News18dp_satish

Updated:December 27, 2019, 8:47 PM IST
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Blame Game on After Mayhem in Mangaluru During Anti-Citizenship Act Protests
Police personnel firing tear gas shells during a clash with the protestors participating in a rally against the amended Citizenship Act and NRC, in Mangaluru.

It was a turbulent Thursday for Mangalureans on December 19. The prosperous port city, which is often on the edge, witnessed widespread violence in the evening. Defying prohibitory orders, a large number of people hit the streets protesting against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act in older parts of the city – Bandar, Hampanakatta, and other parts.

The situation was calm till the afternoon and protesters were seen assembling at a few places. Later, a group of over 500 demonstrators took out a procession near the State Bank circle, shouting slogans against the CAA.

According to witnesses, there was a clash between armed police and the protesters. Officials allege that some miscreants pelted stones at the police who requested them to disperse peacefully. They also say that a mob surrounded a police station, threatening to burn it down, and cops had to open fire in self-defence after issuing several warnings. Two people died in the firing and a few others were injured.

“We tried everything to disperse the mob. Their own community leaders came to the spot and requested them to go back. But, they did not listen to anyone. When the situation got out of control, we had to open fire. Before that we had fired a few warning shots in the air,” says Dr PS Harsha, commissioner of police, Mangaluru.

But, many locals and politicians from opposition parties dispute this version. Speaking to News18 over the phone, BM Farooq, MLC and national working president of the Janata Dal (Secular), said, “What has happened is horrible. Beyond words. It was targeted killing in cold blood. No guidelines were followed. We hear that military-grade weapons were used by the police. People were unarmed. We want strict action against them.”

According to Farooq, dozens of policemen carrying automatic weapons, teargas and lathis barged into the ICU of Highlands Hospital, beating people “including patients”.

“The injured were admitted to this hospital. The police behaved like goons. They entered even the ICU,” he said. The police have countered this charge, saying some protesters were hiding inside the hospital.

“We asked them to come out. They refused and started attacking us. We had to rush inside,” a senior police officer said. However, several locals dismissed this as an attempt by the department to cover up its actions.

Former mayor of Mangaluru K Ashraf was also injured in the clashes. Police say that he was hit by the protesters. But some of his supporters blame the firing by cops.

Dozens of videos are floating on social media, claiming that the police were even attacking passers-by who had nothing to do with the anti-CAA protests.

“Young boys were beaten mercilessly. Police even tried to separate a little girl from her father by force. They also attacked some media personnel,” a few locals, who did not wish to be identified, said.

Dozens of journalists who had come from Kerala to Mangaluru to report on the protests were also allegedly detained by police. According to officials, hundreds of miscreants from the neighbouring state had sneaked into the city to create trouble and some media persons had no valid identity cards with them.

“We detained some of them to check their authenticity. We did not trouble any genuine journalists,” said Dr Harsha. However, a few of the journalists, including Network18 cameraperson Sumesh Morazha, had not been released till Friday afternoon.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleges that the lone Congress MLA from Mangaluru city, UT Khader, is responsible for the violence and deaths. Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has warned that strict action would be taken against Khader.

Attacking the CM for his comments, senior Congress leader DK Shivakumar blamed the BJP for the violence and said his party would not tolerate any attempts to “fix” the MLA in the incident.

A Congress delegation led by former state home minister MB Patil and former assembly speaker KR Ramesh Kumar was detained by the police at Mangaluru airport on December 20, moments after their arrival from Bengaluru to assess the situation. They were forced to go back.

The CAA makes it easier to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The BJP has pitched it as an attempt to correct “historical wrongs” committed during Partition. However, critics say the law discriminates against Muslims and fails the constitutional principles of secularism and equality.

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