Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Adivasi boy assaulted by police in Kerala: Family demands justice

A minor Adivasi boy in Kerala’s Kozhikode district has accused the state police of beating him up, dealing another blow to the Kerala government’s home ministry led by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The 14 year old teen who is studying in grade nine has held officers of Kunnamangalam police station of Kozhikode district responsible for physically assaulting him on the night of December 20, 2023 at his maternal uncle, Anoop’s house after the inebriated Anoop had an altercation with the child.

38-year-old Nagarajan, child’s father belonging to Muthuvan tribal community is a daily wage labourer working in Malappuram district and the child’s mother stays in a house in Kozhikode where she is a house help. Nagarajan told Maktoob, “Our house is in Akambuzha Colony, Kakkadampoyil, but since we are working in two different places, my son lives with his maternal uncle, Anoop at Kattangal.”

The child explaining the ordeal to Maktoob, said, “My drunk uncle Anoop became furious and scolded me unnecessarily for returning home late after exams from school. The argument led to fist fight and after the scuffle deteriorated, my aunt called the police and three officers including a sub inspector, head constable and constable of Kunnamangalam police station came. My aunt blamed me in the presence of the officers and started talking about the expenses and ration I had from their house. When I countered her saying that my father had also provided rice for the house, the officer assaulted me. I was still in my school uniform at the time of attack.”

The child added, “It was the Sub Inspector who slapped me on my face. Then the three officers swung me to the ground which got my head hit and then the inspector hit me on my shoulder using a dry coconut leaf stalk.”

The child added when he resisted verbally saying that he belongs to the Tribal community and attacking him will affect the job of the officer, the inspector said that he doesn’t care which community the child belongs to. The child said that officers took a video of him resisting them verbally and they left the place before his mother came to the scene who was informed by the neighbours.

Child’s mother, Asha, told Maktoob, “I was informed by neighbours that police beated my son”. She added that, “ Kunnamangalam police replied to me that my son had enough strength to bear beatings when I told them not to do anything to him.”

The child was taken to a clinic in Kunnamangalam on the same day but due to continuing uneasiness, he was taken to Mukkom government hospital on 22 December. On the same day, the family filed a complaint at Thiruvambady police station which is near to their house, but the complaint was forwarded to Kunnamangalam station itself as the alleged attack took place under the jurisdiction of Kunnamangalam station.

According to Nagarajan, Kunnamanagalam police denied the assault but a team of police including Circle inspector of Kunnamangalam police station came to Thiruvambady police station for reconciliation and accepted that it was a mistake from their side. Nagarajan told Maktoob, “Citing medical history and young age of the Sub inspector who slapped my son, the Circle Inspector of Kunnamangalam police spoke in defense. Nagarajan said, “The officer told me that a 26 year old inspector will lose his job and the rage was because of having tablets for blood pressure.”

Nagarajan added, “The Circle Inspector told us that the sub inspector got the job with difficulty and the complaint filed against him will affect his future. When asked about the child’s future which might have been affected because of the injuries, the officer said that the child is so young.” Nagarajan also said that the circle inspector refused to give out the name of the alleged assaulter.

The child told Maktoob, “I was severely abused by the sub inspector and he hurled abuses against my family members.” The child added with pain, “Police behave like they are superior and people are inferior. They treat us as toys with whom they can do anything. There is no one to question or punish them.”

Nagarajan informed the reporter that the child will be admitted to hospital because of severe pain in head. Nagarajan added, “Police are attacking us because we are poor and Adivasis. They thought they could frighten the child because he is an Adivasi and no one will speak for him. Police have impunity from punishment because we are Adivasis. No child should face this again and no police should commit violence again.”

Nagarajan alleges that a former panchayat member associated with CPI(M), Soman, is acting as broker on behalf of police and has asked him for reconciliation with police by offering money. Nagarajan said, “Soman told me that the police are ready to offer 1.5 lakh rupees as compensation and I only have to change the statement in favor of the police team who assaulted my son.” Nagarajan said he is not ready for any compromise but the CPI(M) leader was insisting for a compromise. Nagarajan said Anoop belongs to the Other Backward Community (OBC) and he is close with the local police.

Reporter spoke with Soman who is accused by Nagarajan and he said, “I live 20 kilometers away from the place where the alleged assault took place. I have not met the child and the father but have spoken with him over the phone. As a political and social activist, I had enquired about the incident and have intervened for a compromise.” Soman denied that he asked Nagarajan on behalf of police for financial settlement and said he doesn’t know any police officer of Kunnamangalam police station. But contradictorily, Soman who told the reporter that he doesn’t know any police officers of Kunnamangalam police station told, “A discussion with police to solve the issue can be done.” Amidst discussions about the alleged police atrocity, which should be dealt with legally rather than through reconciliation, Soman, who also stated that he would not support the police if they committed any crime, told the reporter that social activists should meditate and bring the two sides of the dispute together for peace. Soman was not interested to share about his activism with CPI(M), but was keen to know details about the reporter.

Senior clerk of Kodenchery tribal office, Deepak, who was deputed by tribal extension officer to visit the child said to Maktoob, “When I called the Kunnamangalam police station, the receiver told me that they are not aware of the case. I have asked them to send the mail id to demand an official report along with the copy of the FIR from the station on the basis of the complaint filed by the family of the child.” ST promoter Aparna who visited the child told Maktoob, “There is visible swelling on forehead and the child is having headache and pain on ear.”

Reporter made a call to the Kunnamangalam Police station and the receiver told, “FIR is not filed yet in the case and call the Circle Inspector for more information.” Reporter called the Circle Inspector of Kunnamangalam Police station, Sreekumar and the officer told, “The case is investigated by ACP Medical college Kozhikode and I cannot investigate as it comes under SC-ST act.” The officer said he handed over the documents of the case to the Assistant commissioner.

When asked about the allegation against the police for the attack, the officer did not answer but told Maktoob, “The child was violent and was struggling with his uncle.” The officer added that the child had alcohol after a person named Krishnamurthy gave it to him and Anoop questioned the child and it led to an argument. The boy beat the uncle using a wooden plank. When again asked about the assault by the police, he replied, “The allegation was falsely made against the police by the family.” When asked about an attempt of Kunnamangalam police led by him for reconciliation and to change the statement against police, the officer replied, “We made no such attempts and i didn’t even talk with the child other than for taking the statement.” Reporter felt like the officer was not interested in giving concrete answers and the officer disconnected the call when a call was made again.

Asha told the reporter, “Assistant commissioner of police who is investigating the case came and met me on 23 December at Anoop’s house and enquired about the incident. The ACP said that it was a mistake from the police to leave the house before I reached here after being informed by neighbors of the incident.” Asha added that CPI(M) members were accompanying the police team who came to enquire and visited houses of neighbors along with ACP. Asha allegedly told the reporter, “A CPI(M) activist named Velayudhan has asked Anoop’s 12 year old son who had witnessed his cousin getting beaten by police not to give a statement against the police.”

M. Geethanandan, leader of the Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha, told Maktoob, “Stringent actions should be taken against the police officers who assaulted the child and it is common for police to take inaction if the victim is a Dalit or an Adivasi.”

When the reporter shared Sreekumar’s allegation of the child being drunk with Deepak, Deepak replied to Maktoob, “Then why didn’t the police take the child for medical if he was alleged to be drunk? There is no base if the police report this allegation after two days of the alleged incident.”

Reporter asked Nagarajan about the allegation of the child being drunk. Nagarajan denied these allegations and said, “The police who assaulted the child accused him of having ganja before beating him. My son even reported this to the circle inspector and said the only thing he did was verbally resisting his inebriated violent uncle and aunty. My son is interested in sports and he is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These attempts to defame my son are to save the police themselves from consequences.” The child denied knowing Krishnamurthy and allegations of being drunk. Asha also testified that her son was not drunk.

Reporter informed Nagarajan about the denial by police of the accusation of reconciliation. Nagarajan replied, “Then whose behalf did Soman call me twice yesterday? Even a constable insisted on me for a compromise after offering tea at Thiruvambady police station on December 21. The constable in a move to pacify me asked, “If any help is needed, only we (police) are there for you and don’t we have to see again?” He stressed and added, “Soman asked me to change the statement against the police before the officials of childline come to take the statement of the child.”

Reporter spoke with Solomon, an activist of Rashtriya Janata Dal who is also residing near the house where the child was assaulted. Solomon also debunked the allegation of the child being drunk. Solomon who also testified about an attempt of police for compromise through Soman told Maktoob, “Soman asked me to make Nagarajan agree for the compromise since I know him. But I pointed out the atrocity made by the police against the child. Even though RJD is an ally of CPI(M) in the LDF government, we won’t support these atrocities.”

This is not the first time a police atrocity is reportedly committed against minors from the Adivasi community.

Adivasi activist Manikuttan Panniyan told Maktoob, “Every minute tribals are experiencing violence on the basis of caste and colour. This poor child is its new victim of prejudicial targeting of tribals by the police. This modern tribal slavery system is going on in Kerala.”


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