Thursday, June 13, 2024

Pro-Palestine protesters detained in Bengaluru, woman says cops made her apologize on camera, manhandled her

Bengaluru Police on Sunday evening thwarted a peaceful pro-Palestine protest in Frazer Town, detaining more than 20 people before they could even register the protest.

Protesters were manhandled and beaten up inside the Pulikeshi Nagar police station, where they were taken by the police. Detainees included human rights defenders, lawyers, common people, and activists.

The protest was a call to create awareness about the ongoing genocide in Palestine by Israel. People started gathering at the protest site to register their dissent but were detained by the Bengaluru police even before they could demonstrate the protest. Their digital devices were confiscated by the police.

Speaking to Maktoob, P. Baruah, Assistant Professor at NLSIU Bangalore, Human Rights lawyer, and a contributor at Polis Project, said, “Even before we could start speaking, our posters were snatched, and we were filled in a police van, and that was done while violating our dignity. Women were dragged and even manhandled by the male police officers.”

Baruah maintained that the protesters, including her, were brutally and forcefully pushed inside the police vehicles like objects, and some of the officers were in civilian clothes and not wearing police uniforms.

She said, “Inside the police station, I was beaten up by two male cops when I confronted them for behaving in an undemocratic manner. They also accused me of abusing them while I was just trying to remind them of their duties as per the law and that they are not supposed to act in a farcical manner, clenching dissent.”

She further said, “The cops made me apologize on camera and forcefully made me say that I was abusing them, and they recorded a video of it. Only then was I allowed to walk out of the detention.”

“Inside the police station, due to repeated attacks and physical police action, one of the detainees had passed out and another one had a concussion,” Baruah added.

“I and other people have sustained some serious injuries. Some of them ended up in the hospital after we were released late at night,” said the professor.

Bangalore police have booked all 15-20 people detained by them, invoking sections such as unlawful assembly and disturbing law and order, citing violation of the Karnataka High Court ruling of 2021, which only allows protests at Freedom Park. Baruah said, “The ruling in itself is contradictory to the law; protest cannot be contained in objects and spaces. I feel that protesting against the genocide happening in Gaza is a basic human decency that every human should feel right now. Every day we see images that are not even of complete human bodies. Mutilated, beheaded pictures of women, infants, and children surface every day. Every other moment of the day is just horrific to witness, and Palestinians are living this as reality. Voicing up, talking about it, protesting, and pushing our governments is the least we can do.”

Baruah also pointed out that the Congress government in Karnataka is no different from the ruling fascist establishment and that they have been campaigning and claiming to be different and an alternative to the present regime.

She asked, “How are they different if they are acting similarly, clenching dissent and beating dissenters?”

Another protester who was detained by the police was Sharath, a lawyer based in the city, who wanted to go by his first name only. Sharath told Maktoob, “There were two police officers in plain clothes; they repeatedly punched me and another protester, Arindam, on our faces and heads when we were being taken to the Pulikeshi Nagar Police Station. We were called names. We have sustained physical bruises and swelling on our faces. I didn’t feel intense pain at the moment but experienced dizziness later. One protester passed out, and another started vomiting inside the police station due to intense police brutality.”

“When we asked these two men, claiming to be police officers, who were beating us to reveal their names, they refused and continued the assault.”

He said, “While police were detaining the women protesters, there were no female cops, and male cops were dragging them in public. They stopped only when we pointed out that it is an offense and they can’t touch women, then they started beating us inside the van.”

Sharath maintained that police were indifferent to one woman protester inside the station because of her Muslim name. He said, “This person was picked up by the police because of the Islamic-sounding name, and they were stricter with her.”

He added, “Chief Minister Siddaramiah acted as an accomplice to the Gaza violence by brutally and forcefully shutting down the pro-Palestine democratic voices in Bengaluru.”

Sharath said, “On one side we have Modi doing such things, strangulating dissent, arresting protesters, but then there is the Congress government in Karnataka which is also curbing dissent, that too in the middle of an election. And then the Congress claims that they are different from BJP.”

He also accused the Siddaramiah government of having close ties with the Israel consulate in the state and said, “This association of Congress with Israel is letting the police act in a similar fascist manner like BJP.”

The lawyer said that thousands of people are killed in Palestine by now, and by ending the dissent, the governments are trying to portray that people are fine with these killings, “but we are not.”

“The protest cum awareness campaign was called to voice our concern and maintain that the state of India is complicit and willfully involved in the crimes against Palestinians, as they are supporting the genocide by not condemning or doing anything about it,” said Sharath.

The advocate said that people in Bengaluru were trying to organize the protest against Israel and in solidarity with Palestinians, but the police were not permitting them, and that it is the first time they have acted this brutally while handling the protesters.

Sharath and Arindam have filed a medico-legal case in the Victoria Hospital, where they went for their treatment and completed the required medical examinations. Both of them are planning to take up the issue with the National Human Rights Commission.

East Bengaluru’s Pulakeshinagar police have booked two FIRs against protesters. A senior police officer told DH that the FIRs were booked for failing to follow the Karnataka High Court’s directions to stage protests at Freedom Park and for obstructing and not allowing government servants to discharge their duty.

All the people detained by the police were released on station bail late at night at around 10 PM on 2 June. Calls made to Pulikeshi Nagar Police Station by Maktoob to learn about the allegations made by the detainees went unanswered. The story will be updated if and when we receive a response.


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