"I was shocked when a constable asked me to get up from the chair I was sitting on, when I told them that I was from a scheduled tribe community," said 44-year-old Usha Naik who went to a police station in Mangaluru, to give her statement regarding threats her family was getting from her neighbours.
Usha Naik lives in Kumpala, near Ullal with three children. She has been a human rights activist for the last four years. As a human rights activist, Usha claims to be a familiar face in police stations in Mangaluru.
“Until last month I had a positive view of the police force, who did not discriminate on the grounds of caste. However, it came as a rude shock to me when a police constable asked me to vacate the chair I was sitting on. As an activist, I am relatively better placed than others in my community, in terms of being aware of my rights. If this happened regularly, imagine the ordeal others from lower caste communities faced?” she asked.
On October 20, Usha approached Ullal police station near Mangaluru to give her statement.
"For the last few months a few boys in the pretext of playing, started to smoke ganja near my house. As a well-wisher, I initially approached the parents (her neighbours) to counsel their children. But, my neighbours held grudge against me and started to behave very rudely. In the last couple of months, the families along with a couple of people with political influence have been demanding me to leave the place," Usha alleged.
On October 15, to her shock Usha heard that the police had booked her 20-year-old son for disturbing public tranquillity. The police had booked the opposite party also under the same sections. However, confused about why the police had already booked her son, Usha went to the police station along with a few members of Dalit organisation on October 20.
"A group of people from a Dalit organisation and I were present. I called them because there were about 50 people demanding me to leave the town. As I was giving details about the issues and later about myself, Shantappa, a constable, who heard me say that I belonged to Naik community, asked me to get up from the chair I was sitting on and replaced it with a different chair," she said.
Raghuvir Sooterpete, another Dalit activist who accompanied Usha to the police station, alleged that the constable replaced her chair exactly after she mentioned that she belonged to Naik community and it was very obvious.
"Our question is that if the police themselves discriminate, then who do we go for help? I asked Usha to keep calm at that time because we had another issue to be solved. But I brought it up with the commissioner in the monthly SC/ST meeting which took place in the last week of October. It was then the Mangaluru deputy commissioner promised to look into the matter of untouchability in the police station," he said.
Speaking to TNM, AB Ibrahim, Mangaluru deputy commissioner said that he has asked an ACP rank officer to look into the matter and bring out a report after conducting an enquiry.
Raghuvir said that this was not the only case where the police in Mangaluru district had delayed enquiry on complaints filed by Dalits.
"About 4 months ago I had complained saying the educational institutions in Mangaluru had been going against the law by taking tuition fee from scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students. Nothing has been done so far," he said.