S Premnath, a senior ticket examiner at the Mylapore MRTS station, unwittingly paid the price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time on a day when Chennai abruptly burst into violence over jallikattu.
At around 2pm, hearing a commotion outside his house, Premnath went to check and was thrown into a six-day nightmare – he was arrested, beaten up by the police and thrown in jail.
“About 15 youngsters came running up our building, and policemen were chasing them. I was going down the stairs, and they thought I was also one of them. They started beating me with lathis. I tried telling them that I’m a TTR, but they weren’t ready to listen anything. They beat all of us on our legs, hands and heads. I tried protecting my head and got hit on my hand, which broke it,” narrates Premnath.
While Premnath was locked up in jail, the ordeal continued for his family. After his father, M Shanmugam, found out that Premnath had been picked up by the police, he embarked on a frantic search. “I went to the Light House police station and then to the Ice House police station. I could not find my son anywhere. I also went and checked for him at the ESI hospital but he was not there. Then at around 8.30pm, I reached the Mylapore DCP office, and he was there with 29 other youngsters,” he says.
By then, the police had already charged Premnath under 12 sections of the IPC including 307 (Attempt to murder) and 506 (ii) (punishment for criminal intimidation).
Premnath alleges that he and the others in lockup were not even given food for two days. “On Monday and Tuesday, they did not give us anything to eat. On Tuesday evening, we were taken to the Magistrate and he scolded the police personnel and asked them to take all of us to hospital and get us treated,” he says.
Following that, they were remanded to Puzhal prison on Wednesday at around 1am, where Premnath remained, until he was given conditional bail and released on Saturday. “I am supposed to be promoted and made an inspector. But now, I’m scared that my department might terminate me from my job,” says Premnath.
Premnath is also worried about what will happen to the swimming championship in September that he has been eagerly awaiting. “I was preparing for it and had been practicing hard. But now, my hand is broken, I don’t even know how I’m going to practice,” he says.
Premnath is a national swimming champion and has won close to 30 medals between 2001 and 2009 in national championships under different categories. He started swimming at the age of three and had got the job as a TTE under the sports quota.
But Premnath is not the only person in Triplicane with allegations of being brutally beaten by the police. Suresh, 31, a plumber, says he had a similar experience. “I came back home after the protest and was taking rest. Suddenly, six policemen entered my house and started beating me. They were claiming that I hit them with stones and bottles. They took me to Mylapore police station and they charged me under seven sections of IPC,” he says.
S Prabhakaran, 25, claims that police entered his house and beat up his whole family. “About 20 police personnel entered the house at around 12.30pm on Monday and started beating me, my father, my mother and my younger brother. They hit me on my head badly. Then they put us in an ambulance and sent us to the Royapettah hospital,” he says, baring the injury marks on his back and head.
Iyanar, a cab co-ordinator at CTS, also went through the same ordeal on Sunday night. “I came back from the office and police came inside the house and started beating me. They first took us to Light House police station and then to the Mylapore DCP office. I got a bail on Saturday with the help of a lawyer. I had to spend Rs. 10,000 for the bail and the lawyer’s fees,” he says. He also has injury marks on his back and hand.
Speaking to The News Minute, Mylapore Deputy Commissioner of Police, Balakrishnan, however denied the possibility that people were dragged out of their homes and beaten.
He said, “It is not possible that someone was dragged out of their house and beaten up. They would have been part of the mob or the crowd which caused violence, like stone-pelting or throwing petrol bombs. We have to go by case to case, I cannot say randomly if a particular person is involved in the violence or not. All of them will claim that they were not part of the mob but if they were not part of it then who was involved in rioting?”