A day after two civilians were killed in the aftermath of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Mangaluru, those close to the victims have only one question in mind: "Why were bullets fired?"
Dramatic visuals of police officials firing in Mangaluru were aired on news channels and dominated discussion on social media on Thursday. But before the inquiry into the deaths can be conducted in detail, friends, family members and well wishers of the victims came together to pay respects at mosques close to the victims' homes in Kudroli and Bunder, two areas in Mangaluru.
Protests in Mangaluru turn violent
The first signs of trouble came as early as 3 pm in the afternoon on Thursday when police officials resorted to lathi charge to disperse protesters and by-standers outside the Deputy Commissioner's office in the city. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 were put in place, stifling plans made by the SKSSF to hold anti-CAA protests in the city.
This led a few agitated protesters to pick up stones in retaliation to the police. Protesters set a couple of tires and large waste cartons on the road. In response, police used tear gas to quell the protesters.
At 4.30 pm, police firing was reported close to Mangaluru North (Bunder) police station. The police justified its actions by saying that they were cornered by a mob of protesters in Bunder, which had pelted stones.
Around the same time, Abdul Jaleel, 49, a resident of Golden Point Apartment in Bunder, was anxiously waiting for his two children Shifani, studying in 9th standard, and Sabil, studying in 5th standard, to return home. "He was on the road waiting for his children to return. When he was standing there, he was shot due to the police firing," Mohammed Arshad, Abdul's neighbour and friend says.
The bullet hit Abdul in the eye, doctors at Highland Hospital confirmed.
"There was nothing Abdul could do. There was no need to open fire. There were a few people arguing with the police. Why did police open fire?" Arshad asks.
Abdul Jaleel worked odd jobs at Dhakke, a fish market, for around Rs 400 every day. "We are coming together along with his brother to help the family through this tough time," Arshad added.
In another incident, Nausheen Kudroli, 23, was returning home from work in Bunder when he was hit by a bullet while taking cover. The same question asked by Abdul's neighbour is repeated by a close friend of Nausheen at the Wenlock Mortuary in Mangaluru where his body was kept on Friday morning. "Was there a need to escalate from lathi charge and tear gas to shooting bullets?" Nausheen's friend asked.
A 24-year-old civil services aspirant and resident of Kudroli pointed out that the firings took place after Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had urged the maintenance of peace.
But despite the relaxations announced, the streets of Mangaluru rippled with violent incidents leading to the deaths of two daily-wage workers. "There was anger against the police because they tried to violently clamp down protests even though they were not supposed to," a resident of Kudroli said.
Police explained that their actions were taken based on unprecedented violence in the city. But residents in Bunder and Kudroli say the police's response was equally unprecedented.
In particular, many residents pointed fingers at Mangaluru Commissioner PS Harsha and asked whether any action will be taken against him.
The violent incidents also left seven others injured, with two persons in the ICU after suffering critical injuries.
The city, under curfew on Friday, was also cut off from mobile internet services. The city's streets were empty with limited public transport. Most shops including eateries remained closed and the curfew was relaxed for two hours between 12 pm and 2 pm to allow prayers at mosques in the city. Those who stepped out to offer their prayers said that they hope that they have seen the last of the violence in the city.