The conference hall at the Collectorate in Ernakulam was tense on Wednesday afternoon, where representatives of the Kerala State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) had called for a hearing on the police lathicharge at Puthuvype protesters on June 17.
The police had lathicharged protesters who had gathered at High Court junction to protest against the opening of an LPG plant in Puthuvype. With the Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting Kochi the following day for the inauguration of Kochi Metro, the police, led by then DCP Yatish Chandra, lathicharged the protesters.
Although he had justified the lathicharge claiming it was part of his duty to ensure the protection of the PM, the police action had attracted widespread criticism from various quarters. The Commission had then summoned Yatish Chandra and asked for an explanation.
However, at the hearing of the case on Wednesday, it was seven-year-old Alan who stole the show.
The boy, who was attending the hearing along with his family and other protesters, was a curious spectator to the exchanges between Yatish Chandra, the protesters and the Commission Chairman. But not for long.
As the DCP proceeded to deny that the police had indiscriminately lathicharged on the protesters, the seven-year-old stepped in.
"He hit me. I saw this uncle hit other people and they had to be hospitalised. The next day, his photo even came in the newspaper," Alan said, pointing a finger at the senior police officer.
The Commission Chairperson P Mohandas then asked Alan whether he had indeed seen the officer manhandle people. To this, Alan nodded his head, repeatedly saying yes, all this while his mother kept tugging at his shirt to calm him down.
Although DCP Yatish took a brief moment to recover from the unexpected attack from the child, the officer soon slipped into a friendly tone and asked: "Me? Who hit you, child? Me? What's your name?"
Although Alan's intervention was brief, he had managed to capture the attention of the panel and the media alike.
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At the hearing, DCP Yatish categorically denied that the police had indiscriminately used force to remove protesters. He added that his force was only ensuring the protection of the PM.
The protesters had also alleged that once they were detained by the police, they were denied bathroom facilities. However, countering the allegation, DCP Yatish said that CCTV visuals from the police stations will prove otherwise.
"The women were not taken inside the station..they were sitting in the compound. CCTV visuals will clearly show kids happily using the bathroom. We did provide them water and milk," the officer said.
The Commission has posted the next hearing in September and have asked the police to furnish the CCTV footage to support their claims.