Stefan Asberg has been running a homestay in Kovalam, one of the most sought-after destinations of Kerala, for the past four years. A Swedish citizen, Stefan faced mistreatment on the eve of New Year after the police made him pour out the liquor he bought claiming he was going to drink on the beach, whereas he wasn’t going to the beach.
Stefan was on the way back to the homestay after purchasing three bottles of liquor from a nearby outlet of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation, around 1.30 pm on December 31. "There was a police checkpoint on the way back. The police asked for the bill of the purchase and I didn't have it with me as I unknowingly left at the outlet in a hurry. A friend of mine from Ireland was waiting for me," Stefan recalled to TNM.
He went back to the outlet and collected the bill receipt and showed it to the police. "The police were accusing me of going to the beach with the liquor. I was not. Eventually, I had to pour out two bottles of liquor," Stefan said, adding that this spoiled his New Year celebrations. The mistreatment by the police of a foreign citizen came to light after India Today TV journalist Rickson Edathatiil, shot a video of the incident and shared it on social media.
In the visuals, the police are seen getting into an argument with Stefan asking him to show the bill. There were four policemen stopping Stefan who was riding a scooter. While one among them shows him the gesture to pour out the liquor, others can be heard asking "do you have the bill with you? it can't be allowed without the bill." Stefan then poured out liquor from two bottles into a pit on the wayside.
"He was carrying three liters of liquor (which is permissible for a person to carry at a time). The police were not allowing anyone to carry liquor, with or without a bill, to the beach. But Stefan was not going to the beach. Only because he poured out two liquor bottles, he was allowed to go with the remaining bottle," Rickson told TNM.
Shaji, a Grade Sub Inspector, has been placed under suspension. While he was suspended on January 1, Saturday, a department-level inquiry has been ordered against the Principal SI Aneesh and two Civil Police Officers. "A departmental level inquiry has just begun. We spoke to Shaji. The statement of the others will be recorded," Praiju G, Station House Officer of Kovalam told TNM.
Apart from the action against the policemen, Chief Minister Pibarayi Vijayan sought a comprehensive report on the incident. Tourism Minister Mohammed Riyaz has termed it unfortunate, while Education Minister V Sivankutty on Saturday visited Stefan. This has also been criticised for the government not being insensitive towards other police excesses.
In August, a video went viral of a female officer wrongly accusing a man and his school-going daughter publically of theft. The High Court on December 22 directed the state government to pay Rs 1.5 lakh to the minor girl and her father. The government, however, has not taken any action against the erring police personnel.