news Monday, July 06, 2015 - 05:30
  A week since 95 Muslim men were arrested for indulging in mob-violence in Ambur in Tamil Nadu, several questions remain unanswered.  The violence was unleashed on an unprepared police force in the wake of the death of a Muslim man, Shameel Ahmed. Members of his family alleged that he was beaten up in illegal police detention. Ahmed has since died due to severe internal injuries. His death on June 27 set off a chain of events, culminating in massive mob fury targeting the police on the same day. A huge crowd of over 3000 Muslims gathered in Ambur to protest against the death, demanding the dismissal of policemen responsible for the alleged illegal police detention and custodial torture. The protests however turned violent with the police being physically assaulted with deadly weapons. Why was Shameel detained? On June 15, following a complaint by one Pavithra’s husband, 26-year old Shameel Ahmed was picked up by the police for questioning. Pavithra was missing, and her family found a link that led right back to Shameel.  Shameel and Pavithra knew each other as they were colleagues until six months ago. According to NK Mohammed Ghouse, Shameel’s father-in-law, Pavithra had left town to meet Shameel in Erode after a quarrel with her husband. After a few days however, Shameel had sent her back asking her to return home, and informed her family members that she was on her way back. But Pavithra never returned home. Following a complaint by the girl’s family against him, Shameel was then called for questioning in Ambur. For the next four days, his family say, Shameel was kept in illegal police custody, tortured and questioned on the whereabouts of the girl. According to Ghouse, who also happens to be the district head of the Indian Thouheed Jamaat, all attempts by him to find Shameel were in vain. “Every time I called Inspector Martin Premraj, he wouldn’t respond. He said there was no cell-phone signal, or wouldn’t respond to my questions about Shameel,” he said. On June 19, Shameel emerged with severe injuries which required immediate medical attention. He also allegedly said that he had been kept locked-up in a police quarters and tortured. He was immediately admitted to the Ambur General Hospital for two days. Needing better medical attention, he was then transferred to the Vellore Hospital and later taken to Chennai where he succumbed to grievous internal injuries. His death on Friday in Chennai sent shockwaves across Ambur, a region dominated by the Muslim community. What started as a small group protesting near the Ambur General Hospital ended in the gathering of over 3000 Muslims to protest Shameel’s death, demanding immediate action against Inspector Premraj who had allegedly tortured him.  But the protests slowly unfolded into mob violence, and what followed was nothing short of a riot. The mob attacked trucks and buses. Police vehicles were torched, police personnel were pelted with stones, bricks and attacked with knives. Several cops were chased and attacked. Atleast 40 police personnel, including 8 women, were injured and admitted to hospitals. Several among them were gravely injured by the hostile mobs. “Even women police personnel were injured in the mob violence,” says Mohammed Shibli, who was part of a fact-finding team which visited Ambur last Saturday. A Thowheed Jamath leader, KN Irshath Ali says that he was present when the violence began. "I saw thousands of people heading towards us that day. But I did not recognise any of them," he claims.  Two police vehicles were torched, one police officer received 98 stitches on his leg, and several women police officials were indecently assaulted by the furious mob, says a report. A hospital, a TASMAC shop and other stores nearby were also reportedly damaged in the violence. Activists brush off the violence saying that the police was unequipped to handle such a situation, but many believe that the violence itself shows signs of pre-meditation. Pictures of policemen lying on hospital beds, injured and bloody from stone-pelting, have been doing the rounds on social media. “If the violence was unplanned, how would one explain the knives, stones, bricks that had been used in the protest?” asks a journalist in Ambur. Following this, nearly 200 Muslims in the locality were picked up for questioning. While many were let off, after investigations,  95 people still remain in prison. Ghouse says that all they wanted was justice. “After his arrest, we (me and the Thowheed Jamath members) gathered to conduct a protest on June 23. But then they detained us for the whole day,” he alleges. He claims Inspector Martin was also responsible for the death of another Muslim man in police custody last year. “We sent out WhatsApp and Facebook messages to everyone about what happened,” he said. The police clearly was not equipped to handle the mob. A few hours after the violence, more police battalions gathered to control the crowd and even charged at the crowd with lathis. But by then, enough damage had been done. Members of the Indian Thowheed Jamath say that the suspension of the Inspector Martin , which came on Sunday was too late. “If they had done this earlier and not been lazy, this would not have happened,” said one member.  However, A Marx, heading the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations who filed an interim report on the violence, alleged that many innocent people had been arrested and lodged in prison. With Shameel being dead, the two others at the centre of the controversy, Pavithra and Martin, were missing during the riots.    Suspended from police duty, Inspector C Martin Premraj has been missing ever since the youth’s death on June 27.The case has been transferred to the State CB-CID. Despite a suspension notice and a summons by the CB-CID, Martin remains at large. Pavithra, missing since May 24, was traced in Chennai on June 4. According to reports, instead of returning to Vellore after meeting Shameel, she had gone on to Chennai and stayed there. Ghouse states that no matter how many times Shameel explained his side of the story to the cops, no one was ready to believe him. But with a man brutally tortured to death on one side and an angry police force on the other, there seems to be no resolution in sight. Was Shameel illegally detained by the police? Was the violence against the police orchestrated? These questions remain unanswered. (Images courtesy: Twitter)