An interim fact-finding report on the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest and subsequent police firing in Mangaluru on December 19 found that police action "was excessive, biased and specifically targeted the Muslim community."
The report was compiled by a group of human rights and civil liberty activists from Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and New Delhi belonging to the All India People's Forum (AIPF), People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO).
In the report, the activists called for a judicial inquiry to be conducted into the police firing and the police action at Highland Hospital, where the victims of the firing were taken to. They also called for the suspension of Mangaluru Police Commissioner PS Harsha and urged the state government to provide compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the victims' families.
The report recounted the sequence of events that led to the police opening fire on protesters in Mangaluru on December 19. An initial protest outside the Deputy Commissioner's office was quelled by tear gas and lathicharge by the police since protesters had defied prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC.
However, the fact-finding team alleged that the police infuriated the Muslim community by selectively targeting shops and mosques. "At around 4 pm, a team of police attacked Ibrahim Khaleel mosque where about 80 persons were praying peacefully. The police apparently sought to chase certain youth into the said mosque and then initiated an indiscriminate attack upon the mosque. The police launched an attack of stones and teargas through and above the slats of the mosque gate, causing havoc and confusion," alleges the report.
The Ibrahim Khaleel mosque is located on Nellikai Road, which is 450 metres away from the Mangaluru North (Bunder) police station where the police personnel opened fire on protesters.
The report goes on to add that "the police began indiscriminate firing of guns and teargas" on Azizuddin Road outside the Mangaluru North (Bunder) Police Station at 4:30 pm. Two people were killed due to the police firing. Abdul Jaleel, 42 and Nausheen, 23, were shot in the eye and midriff respectively.
The victims were daily-wage labourers working in Mangaluru. Their families were denied compensation of Rs 10 lakh which was initially announced by the state government. An FIR registered at the Mangaluru North (Bunder) police station accuses them of rioting.
The fact-finding team also raised questions over the police action at Highland Hospital, where the victims of the police firing were taken to. "After Jaleel and Nausheen were declared dead on arrival at Highland Hospital, the police was called so that the bodies could be handed over to them as these were Medico Legal Cases (MLC). The police upon arrival at the hospital were faced by an angry group of mourners, who pelted stones at the police outside the hospital. The police engaged in lathicharge outside the hospital," read the report.
"They did not stop there. The police then fired tear gas within the hospital compound and proceeded to storm the hospital. They tried to barge into patient rooms including the ICU. At least three patients who were admitted there prior to December 19th were adversely affected due to this. The health of two patients who were admitted with respiratory issues deteriorated and had to be shifted to the ICU and one of them was put on a ventilator," the report added.
The team spoke to the families of the victims of police firing, shopkeepers near the State Bank of India and other areas in Bunder, officials at the Ibrahim Khaleel mosque, met the administration of Highland Hospital, District Medical Officer, of Wenlock Hospital Dr Rajeshwari Devi, Assistant Commissioner Madan Mohan, and Commissioner of Police PS Harsha.
Following the violent incidents, a curfew was imposed in Dakshina Kannada district for three days while mobile internet services were suspended in the district for two days. Police officials in Mangaluru attempted to justify their actions by posting videos of protesters pelting stones on December 19 in different parts of Mangaluru. However, other videos have emerged showing police firing at protesters from a distance and discussing why “no one has fallen dead”.