The following story has been drafted piecing together views of several people including association members, protestors, law enforcement officials, eye-witnesses, peace committees, former legislators, neighbours, kin and kith of the deceased, to understand the timeline of events that took place on Thursday in Mangaluru.
December 17: In the backdrop of the passage of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) by the Union government the Samastha Kerala Sunni Students Federation (SKSSF) makes announcements on its social media groups and handles calling for protest on Thursday (December 19). The announcement garners a good traction with leaders of several political parties and other organisations committing to join the protest at the DC’s office.
December 18: The Mangaluru City Police Commissioner Dr PS Harsha imposes Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) from 9 pm on December 18 to midnight of December 20. After this, the SKSSF decides to call off the agitation and makes public announcements on news media platforms, social media, and Whatsapp groups – that the protest has been deferred to a future date. But, according to Afzal, an acquaintance of Jaleel who died in police firing, not all the participants received the WhatsApp forward or intimation of the deferment of the protest.
December 19: Subsequently, even as the leaders or the organisers of the protest are absent, several teenagers and youngsters turn up at the agitation venue at State Bank bus stop (Near DC’s office) on Thursday at 12 noon. Afzal says not many of them were aware that the Section 144 order has been promulgated. “Moreover, many took inspiration from protest marches in Bengaluru and other cities, where despite the ban by local authorities, people had successfully held peaceful agitations. Since even this protest was on peaceful lines, the youngsters did not pay much heed to the routine police presence and spoke their minds,” he adds.
Approximately 12.30 pm: In a largely leaderless event, about 100-odd youngsters sat in front of the DC or Collector’s office – with a few of them talking on the microphone about rights, accusing the Union government of destroying the constitutional values, and demanding that government authorities should not implement CAA and NRC.
01:40 pm: Besides the presence of the earlier stationary police vehicles, locals now report the arrival of additional police personnel and vehicles on the scene. “The new police party that arrived informed us to shut down nearby shops, businesses and hotels and additionally even diverted the city buses that generally drop the last passenger near State Bank and make a quick pit-stop,” Manjunath, one of the local fish traders says.
2.10-2.45 pm: Police authorities say that they started making an announcement to the protestors that Section 144 was in place and the protest needs to be abandoned. “By the time we started making the announcement, about 300 people had gathered. While some of them left the spot, others were adamant. It was getting difficult for us by the minute to control the situation, since the group was absolutely leaderless and every protest participant had their own mind, whether to comply with our orders or not,” a police constable says.
3:00 pm: Police begin lathicharge to disperse the crowd, many of the protestors and even ordinary bystanders (waiting for the buses) near the DC’s office are seen rushing from DC’s office either towards adjacent Nellikai Road or towards Lady Goshen Hospital. “The police resorted to heavy violence and merciless beating of anyone who came within the range of their baton. Even some innocent people, minors were cornered by the police and mercilessly assaulted,” Kishore, a customer who had turned up at a nearby petrol pump says.
3:20 pm: A few agitated youngsters were seen picking up stones, retaliating against the police action, witnesses say. In the process, they damaged a KSRTC bus. “It was then that we had to resort by shelling tear-gas on the protestors to disperse the crowd and even arrested a few as they started getting violent,” police officials claim.
Even as the violence continued, Muzair, a member of the local peace committee says that he along with a few leaders contacted Mangaluru Police Commissioner Dr PS Harsha and informed him that they would mediate with the youngsters to give up violence and vacate the place immediately. “We even accompanied Dr Harsha until Bunder Police station, but he had to attend to another area on duty and so he split. But we asked many youngsters near Skanda in Bengre and Bunder road to leave, and they did,” Muzair says.
First report of police firing
Around 4.30 pm: According to the local residents of Bunder, police started firing with a rifle. “The mob had dispersed across four corners of Bunder road, and were cornering us and attacking from different directions,” a police official says, justifying the firing. “Since the area has scrap shops, bottles and metal objects, the crowd generously used any object at the advance police party. Even the former Mayor Ashraf – who went to mediate with the crowd – was not spared by them and he was injured and we had to resort to firing,” he adds. However, one of the protestors says that it was a police firing that injured Ashraf on his scalp area.
The police official further adds that they almost ran out of tear gas while quelling the crowd. “When you are attacked from all sides and outnumbered in those narrow lanes, it is natural for panic and stress to step-in,” he justifies, “The attack was unprecedented, the crowd had cornered us from all three directions even at Bunder police station – which was our only place to fall back to safety. It was only then that select personnel were authorised to fire – to scare the crowd away.”
2 killed, and at least 5 injured due to police firing
It was around the same time that 49-year-old Abdul Jaleel, a father of two, came out of his house to bring his kids indoors, says Jaleel’s neighbour Mohammed Kunhi. “He does odd jobs for living at Bengre fishing yard. In fact, he had just come for lunch. After hearing noise and commotion, he came downstairs, when he was shot,” Kunhi says.
On the other hand, 23-year old Nausheen Kudroli, a resident of Kudroli was said to be shielding himself from the violence in a residential lane when he was shot. “He comes from a poor family, along with his four brothers he works at Bunder,” a person familiar with Nausheen says.
Soon, a crowd tails the ambulances that were ferrying the injured victims to the Unity hospital and Highland Hospital near Kankanady, about 4 km from Bunder.
Later in the evening at the hospital, the protesters and the police have another series of confrontations. “The police officials lobbed three tear-gas canisters inside the entrance of the Highland hospital. They even tried to kick and break open doors of certain hospital rooms, where family members of the victims were accompanying them,” Kabeer, the Vice President of PUCL Mangalore, says.
BK Imtiyaz, one of the traders at Bunder Road, says the police action was very high handed. “If they had allowed the community leaders to intervene, they could have resolved the matter peacefully. But here they resorted to violence and it took away the lives of innocent people,” he says.
According to the Imtiyaz, it was the police who had surrounded all protestors from all three sides leading to State Bank from Nellikai Road, Central Market and Lady Goshen Hospital. "If the police had given some room for the protestors to run-away, they could have dispersed. But they purposely blocked them and subjected them to violence, which led to the confrontation," he says.
Imtiyaz says that besides demanding a judicial inquiry into the police highhandedness in the incident – they will demand for the suspension of the senior police officials of the Mangaluru City Police (MCP).
Meanwhile, former MLC and President of Muslim Central Committee (MCC), KS Mohammed Masood has told all community members to cooperate with the police. “We also demand that the state government pay for appropriate medical help and compensation to the families of deceased and injured during the violent incident,” he says.
Meanwhile, besides the suspension of the mobile internet services in Mangaluru, the city police has declared a curfew in the city limits until midnight on Saturday, December 21.