Since 23 January this year, residents of the Chellanam Village in Ernakulam have been on protest against the local police, alleging undue harassment even at night.
Led by a group of women from the village, a series of protests are on, with protesters accusing the police of bending the law to create unnecessary tension in the village.
It all began with a clash between the locals and the police on 22 January during the village Church feast. In the ensuing melee, a policeman reportedly sustained injuries.
Since then, police have been targeting the villagers, claims the Chellanam Janakeeya Samithi, a group formed to protest against this perceived injustice.
Speaking to The News Minute, Teena -a homemaker- says: “We have no idea just when they (police) would barge into our homes…the children are so scared just thinking about it happening.
They just come in, start vandalising whatever they lay their hands on, be it furniture, window-panes, household stuff….Just the other day, the police literally broke down the door of Vachakkal Vavachan’s (a local) house.
And since he was not home, they went about destroying the washing machine and chairs. This happens almost every night at one house or the other. How do you expect us to live like this?”
She alleges that the police have even asked a few folks to keep the doors unlocked, to facilitate easy entry. Around 40 villagers have also had cases filed against them by the police, without evidence of any kind.
“When the clash happened, naturally many people intervened just to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control. But when they made the list of accused, they added just about everyone’s names. Almost all of them are innocent,” reiterates Teena.
Shiji -the Janakeeya Samithi Convenor- cites the example of 62-year old Panakkal Xavier who was called to the police station, and made to stand there the whole day. They were later forced to let him go due to sheer lack of evidence, says Shiji.
“An 18-year old boy was made to balance for almost eight long hours on bent knees and hands. Fearing police harassment, almost all men from the village have gone into hiding. Because of this, they now vent their rage on the womenfolk left behind,” she fumes.
According to Shiji, not only have the police damaged drinking-water pipelines to most houses in the village, they even dumped a cooking-gas cylinder inside a well.
“They confiscated a few wedding albums from one house, and threatened to burn their treasured memories,” she rages.
The police however categorically deny every single allegation raised.
“We have not entered any of the houses at night. We have only gone to the homes of those accused in the case. All such allegations are baseless. We have not vandalised any home. They (villagers) are just trying to distort facts,” insists Kannamaly Sub-Inspector Shyju Ebrahim, under whose jurisdiction the village lies.