On December 19, 2019, when Mangaluru police began dispersing protesters agitating against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), a video clip of a man clutching his three-year-old daughter and jostling with the police was shared widely on social media.
The man was resisting the attempts of the police to drag him and his daughter towards a bus parked nearby. The child is seen screaming while her elder sister and mother are also seen in the video clip appealing to the police to let them go.
The video of the family’s agony was shared on social media widely on a day the police fired at protesters leading to the deaths of two people. Many residents, particularly from Bunder and Kudroli, where the police firing took place, pointed to the video clip as evidence of police excess in dispersing protesters.
The man in the video clip was identified as Ibrahim KM, a 32-year-old resident of Kudroli in Mangaluru. Though the visuals show Ibrahim with his family, the police registered a case against him and accused him of rioting and assaulting a police officer. He is accused number 29 among 45 people named in an FIR registered in Mangaluru South (Pandeshwar) police station.
Ibrahim stayed away from the media after this incident but on December 25, he decided to approach the police officials at Mangaluru South (Pandeshwar) police station to file a complaint against police personnel who harassed him and his family.
Ibrahim says that the police officials in the station threatened to register more cases against him if he intended to ahead with his plan to file a complaint against the police.
“We went to Pandeshwara station on 25 December to register a complaint against the police asking for action to be taken against them, we were told not to file a complaint and that if we register one FIR, they will register 4-5 FIRs on my husband,” Ibrahim’s wife stated in an interview.
“When we asked for justice to be done, they (police) asked us how can we give justice? They (police) said we might have planned and come to protest. If we planned to go to protest, why would we go with our family?” she asked.
Ibrahim is a scrap dealer who works out of a shop in Bunder in Mangaluru. On December 19, he was travelling in an auto along with his family after picking up his nine-year-old daughter from school. But when the auto reached the Clock Tower, it was close to the area where police were chasing protesters agitating against the CAA.
“The driver stopped the vehicle and told us that he cannot go any further because of the commotion around us. My husband and I decided to wait for the bus. When we were boarding the bus, the police grabbed him (husband) and tried taking him into the police van. They also pulled our child and told us ‘Give the child’,” Ibrahim’s wife recalled.
“My young child is very scared because of it. If the bell is rung at home, she says ‘Police is here. There is commotion’,” she added. Ibrahim was eventually taken to the Mangaluru South (Pandeshwar) police station around 6:30 pm where his details were noted down. He was allowed to leave the police station on the same night.
After the police opened fire on protesters in Bunder in Mangaluru, a curfew was imposed in Dakshina Kannada district and mobile internet services were suspended.
Ibrahim, who was disturbed by what his family had experienced, took a break from work following the incident. When this reporter first met him on December 20, a day after the incident, he refused to speak to media persons over fears that the police will harass him further. Two weeks on, he still continues to protest his innocence and asks police officials to furnish evidence that he was involved in protests.
His claims are echoed by others who were at the anti-CAA protest site. “Will anyone go to a protest taking their wife and daughters? If the police have proof of Ibrahim being involved in the protests, they should reveal it. We want justice to be done,” says Syed, a resident of Kudroli, where Ibrahim lives with his family.
Multiple FIRs registered in Mangaluru North (Bunder) police station identifies “unknown Muslim youth” as accused persons. In at least six of the FIRs registered following the protests on December 19, “unknown Muslim youths” have been accused of unlawful assembly, assault, damage to public property and rioting, among other charges. Many Muslim men including Ibrahim have also been named in FIRs registered in Mangaluru.