The Mangaluru Police have begun issuing notices to people from Kerala, including minors, accusing them of involvement in the violence that erupted in Mangaluru on December 19 during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Police say that over 2,000 people have been identified so far and the Mangaluru North police alone have already issued notices to around 600 people from Kerala.
Notices have been issued to government employees, bank employees, and even minors living in the border areas of Kerala and Karnataka, who were allegedly present in Mangaluru on December 19, Deccan Herald reported.
“Notices have been issued to people living in areas between Manjeshwar and Calicut, who were present in Mangaluru. We have obtained phone numbers from mobile towers at protest sites for December 19, and have identified over 2,000 people, who are from Kerala. We have issued notices to them to prove that they were not part of the protest,” said DySP Gaonkar, the former investigating officer in the case. The case was handed over to the CID on January 11.
Police sources told TNM that the people from Kerala including Popular Front of India activists had allegedly arrived in Mangaluru three days ahead of the protests on December 19 to plan the violence – although the source refused to reveal the number of suspected PFI activists who have been identified. “We have given them time to prove innocence. The inquiry will be conducted in a transparent manner,” Mangaluru Police Commissioner PS Harsha said.
However, the Mangaluru president of Democratic Youth Federation of India, Muneer Katipala, accused the police of trying to create a narrative against people from Kerala. “The police keep saying that people from Kerala planned this. But so far, the police have no evidence. When we ask the police on what basis they are doing this, there is no answer. Now they are just issuing notices to anyone who is from Kerala. A beedi worker, who was not even in the city, also got a notice with section 307 (attempt to murder) in it,” Muneer said.
Police creating a straw man?
On January 16, Shafiya Begum, a 45-year-old beedi worker in Kerala’s Manjeshwar received a notice from the Mangaluru North police. The notice stated that Shafiya has been named in an FIR under sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with a deadly weapon), 188 (disobedience to order by public servant), 353 (assault to deter public servant from discharging duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to public servant), 324 (assault with deadly weapon), 427 (damage tyo property), 307 (attempt to murder) and 120b r/w 149 (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.
Speaking to TNM, Shafiya said that she was not present in Mangaluru when the protests erupted. Shafiya said that her husband, 56-year-old Mohammed, travels every morning from Manjeshwar to Mangaluru to sell fish.
“That sim card was taken in my name but for the last three years, my husband has been using it. On December 19, he sold fish in the market and had come home by noon. But the mobile tower had the number in its record and I got the notice in my name. On January 18, I went to the Mangaluru police station and gave a statement to the police and came back. There were a lot of sections in the notice which scared me,” she said.
Notice issued to Shafiya by Mangaluru police
Shafiya says that the police asked her questions about whether her husband was involved with any outfit like PFI or SDPI. “My husband is a fishmonger. He came back home way before anything started. He has asthma and can barely walk for his work because of health problems. Where do we have time to become part of groups?” she said.
Muneer says that the notices have been issued to many residents of Kerala including patients, college students and parents of school children accusing them of indulging in violence. “What if these people are not able to provide proof for what they were doing? The poor people are the ones to lose out. If these people are not able to prove that they had nothing to do with the violence, they may get chargesheeted. No one documents everything they do on a daily basis,” he said.
Speaking to TNM, a CID official, who has taken over the probe in the case, says that so far the police have not arrested anyone, who has been questioned in this regard. "The local police are helping the CID with questioning since the number of notices issued is a lot. These were issued because we wanted their help in identifying people in videos and photos of the protest," he said.
With inputs from Megha Kaveri