On this day last year (2019 December 19), two Muslim youths Naushin, 23 and Abdul Jaleel, 42 were killed in police firing in Mangaluru during the protests against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Police murdered my brother
Jaleel, a father of two children – a son and a daughter – was running a small fishing-related business at the Managaluru Old Port and was living in a rented house on Azizuddin Road at Bunder.
On 19 December 2019, he had picked up his children and dropped them at home and came to the main road just to see what was happening.
“When he was standing there, he was shot by police,” Mohammed Arshad, Jalil’s neighbour and friend said.
“There was nothing Jaleem could do. There was no need to open fire. Why did police open fire? Is it because we are Muslims?” Jaleel’s friend asked.
Jaleel’s brother Mohammed Yahya told reporters that it was a murder by police.
“They [police] murdered my brother for no reason,” Yahya said.
Jaleel was shot in his eye and fell dead instantly, according to Yahya.
“What kind of a world is this?“
23 year old Nausin who was working with a catering unit, had come to Bunder on 19 December 2019 to purchase groceries.
“A bullet fired by the police had hit his back,” said a witness.
“He worked as a welder in the Bunder area. Yesterday he came home for lunch, like he did everyday, and then left again for work. He did not even eat properly. The next thing we heard was that he had been shot in police firing. He did not even participate in the protests,” Naushin’s mother Mumtaz told media a day after his youngest son’s death.
“What kind of a world is this?” grief-stricken mother asked.
FIR against Naushin and Jaleel
Soon after the police firing, Mangaluru police also registered a first information report or FIR against Abdul Jaleel and Naushin, for allegedly participating in a ‘violence’ and anti-CAA protests.
The charges were denied by the family of both Jaleel and Naushin.
“There was a peaceful protest against CAA. But both Naushin and Jaleel were not part of the agitation. No one can deny this,” Ashraf Agadi, a lawyer told Maktoob.
As the city witnessed two police killings following protests against CAA, Muslim leaders, relatives and neighbors of victims had called for a judicial probe into the incidents.
Muslim Central Committee of Mangaluru demand a judicial inquiry into the police killing.
“We have the right to protest peacefully. Thursday’s firing was pre-planned golibar,” said Umar UH, president of Muslim Writers’ Association.
Popular Front of India leaders alleged that there are standard operating procedures before firing on a violent crowd.
“It was not a violent crowd. Police did not follow any procedure,” K Ashraf, office bearer of Popular Front of India told Maktoob.
Around one lakh people had convened in Mangaluru’s Adyar Kannur on 15 January 2020 in a massive protest against CAA and NRC and it came a month after the death of Jaleel and Naushin.
The protest gathering was organized by Dakshina Kannada and Udupi Muslim Central Committee, an umbrella body of Muslim organisations in Karnataka and ‘We The People’, a collective of CAA protests across the country.
The Udupi district Khazi and senior Islamic scholar Alhaj Bekala Ibrahim Musliyar and other Muslim leaders called for a judicial probe into the police killings while addressing the protesters.
Many protesters of all ages around, raised slogans against CAA and NRC, waving national flags, while some carried pictures of Naushin and Jaleel and placards against police killings and brutalities against Muslims.
20 days later the police firing, JDS leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy released over 35 video clips that show Mangaluru police violence against anti-CAA protesters.
Kumaraswamy held a press conference on 10 January 2020 with CCTV videos as proof, on how Mangaluru police did violence, then tried to cover up its tracks and blame protesters – by using TV channels who put out selective CCTV footage with edited.
“The police firing was done without any provocation even before any law and order problem arose. Police were ready to fire even before the commissioner order firing. This is a total failure in maintaining law and order by the police,” Kumaraswamy said.
By refuting police claims that the police fired in defence when some protesters tried to set a police station on fire, JDS leader demanded that 360 degree CCTV footage of a camera in the police station should be released.
“The police video shows an auto rickshaw transporting sacks of stones projecting that the violence was well planned. But, the fact is that the video with me shows that auto was transporting debris from some under construction building,” he said.
“When protests against CAA are going on across the State, why is that violence happened only in Mangaluru? It is clearly a state sponsored violence,” he claimed.
The former Karnataka CM tabled all the videos in the Legislative Assembly for discussion.
Kumaraswamy demanded that a Legislature House committee be set up to probe the Mangaluru firing and the Police Commissioner and other senior officers should be immediately placed under suspension.
People’s Tribunal report
The People’s Tribunal comprised of Justice (Retd.) V Gopala Gowda, BT Venkatesh and Sugata Srinivasaraju which conducted public hearings to hear from all the persons affected by the police firing on 19th December, came out with many stunning observations on 21 January 2020.
The report said that the action of the police personnel seem to contravene significant limitations on their powers, as provided for in the Karnataka Police Manual.
Also vctims and other eyewitness have told the panel that police present in the area used anti-Muslim slurs and used deplorable language in order to provoke the protestors.
“Victims have suffered immense financial hardship as a result of the atrocities committed on 19th December,” the report pointed.
The report also blamed state government for internet shutdown in Dakshina Kannada district after the incident, for five days till December 23.
The report pressed for constitution of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe the incident.
High Court slams police
On 18 February 2020, the Karnataka High Court had observed that there was a deliberate attempt to cover up the Mangaluru police’s excesses by implicating innocent people.
Justice Cunha said the overzealousness of the police was also evident from the fact that first information reports were registered against the two people killed in the police firing under under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code (charges related to attempt to murder).
“In an offence involving a large number of people, the identity and participation of each accused must be fixed with reasonable certainty. In the present cases, the identity appears to have been fixed on the basis of their affiliation to PFI and they being members of the Muslim community,” judge said.
“The records indicate that a deliberate attempt has been made to fabricate evidence and to deprive the petitioners of their liberties,” the court also observed while granting bail to 21 Muslims who were arrested in connection with the alleged ‘violence.’
He also cited photographs and CCTV footage to point out that the crowd was unarmed, except for one person who was holding a bottle.
“On the other hand, photographs produced by the petitioners show that the policemen themselves were pelting stones at the crowd,” the court said.
The Karnataka government on 20 February 2020 ruled out a judicial inquiry into the December 19 Mangaluru police firing.
Home minister Bassavaraj Bommai denied the charge and squarely defended the government. He told the legislative assembly that Mangaluru police officials were “right in taking the decision to open fire only after exhausting all possible measures to prevent violence.”
The minister said, “According to the National Human Rights Commission guidelines, police must resort to a mild-lathicharge, a full-fledged lathicharge, fire rubber pellets, use tear gas shells and then open fire only after the earlier measures fail to rein in a mob. When these measures failed and the protesters in Mangaluru tried to snatch weapons from a police station, police had no option but to open fire.”
Senior BJP leader Bommai lauded the Mangaluru policemen, saying they exercised utmost restraint and acted only after exhausting all the guidelines in controlling the mob.
“We should not attempt to pull down the morale of police force by censuring them only on political grounds,” he added.
Udupi district deputy commissioner G Jagadeesha, who was appointed as inquiry officer for the magisterial inquiry into the December 19 police firing, submitted a report running into 2,500 pages to the government in November.
The report is yet to be made public.
(With inputs from The Hindu and Indian Express)