Mangaluru: On December 19, even as the Mangaluru police had begun beating and shooting at people protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, a short video clip of a man desperately clutching his three-year-old daughter and resisting the police went viral on social media.
The man was seen jostling with the police – both men and women – and resisting their attempt to drag him and his daughter closer to a parked bus. The child, terrified by the men in uniform, was heard screaming. Her elder sister and mother could also be seen in the video clip, trying to save her and pleading with the police to let them go.
This family’s ordeal soon became a symbol of alleged police excesses suffered by hundreds of Muslims on December 19 in Dakshina Kannada district. Two young Muslim men were killed in the police firing and scores severely injured.
The young man, now identified as K.M. Ibrahim, had since stayed away from the media, fearing further police victimisation. But as the police have gone ahead and registered a case of rioting and destruction of public property against him, Ibrahim spoke to The Wire and narrated the horrors the Mangaluru police subjected him and his family to. Ibrahim has been named in one of the eight FIRs registered after the violence. He is one of the 45 people named in the FIR registered at the Pandeshwara police station.
Ibrahim, a 32-year-old scrap dealer, was at his workshop on Bunder road when he got a panicked call from his wife. It was around 3 pm, and Ibrahim’s wife had gone to pick up their elder daughter from school. Their younger daughter had accompanied her too. As the autorickshaw in which the mother and daughter were travelling pulled into the Clock Tower area, a mob was being chased by the police. The auto driver refused to ply further and asked Ibrahim’s wife and children to get off the rickshaw. “My wife called me and told me to come and pick her up immediately. I knew things were tense in the city, so I rushed to the spot,” Ibrahim tells The Wire.
“I had to dodge the police and the crowd to get to the spot my family was stranded. It was a horrifying feeling to think of them stranded amid violence,” he adds. Ibrahim says as he got to the spot and saw his family there, he was finally relieved.
“I was on the other side of the road and when I began to move closer to my family, some policemen, all dressed in riot- gear, came close to me and began to drag me towards a parked bus. I tried to explain to them that I was on the street because of my family and they should let me go. They did not budge.” Ibrahim says his wife and children soon joined him and pleaded with the police. “My younger daughter, my jigar ka tukada (my beloved child), leaped over me and held on to me. There was such chaos that I couldn’t make sense of anything that was happening. All I knew was I have to protect my family,” a visibly disturbed Ibrahim says.
Ibrahim is still nervous and has not gone back to work. He knows the police will come for him any time and this time there won’t be any bystander’s camera to film his life. “They did not spare anyone. Even those standing by the side and watching the police’s atrocity in utter shock were mercilessly beaten up. I can’t get my child’s screeches out of my head. It was just too horrid,” he says.
The fear is evident in Ibrahim’s eyes when he tells this reporter that she can speak to his wife and children, but shouldn’t mention their names or use their pictures anywhere. “I don’t know how long will I be around to protect them. I am trying to do everything in my capacity to ensure their safety,” he says. Even as Ibrahim continues to speak to The Wire, his wife stands around nervously and utters a few words in Byari, a language spoken particularly by the Muslims of Dakshina Kannada. Their daughter, clueless about what had befallen her family, continues to play on the side and breaks the tense air in the room with her spontaneous giggles.
In these difficult times, however, Ibrahim’s neighbours have stood by his side, which he says is reassuring. When this reporter visited Ibrahim, at least half a dozen people peeped into the tiny room just to ensure Ibrahim was okay.
Ibrahim lives close to Kudroli’s iconic Jama Masjid in Mangaluru city. It is a Muslim locality. Just a few metres away is where 22-year-old Nausheen Kurdroli used to live. Kudroli was one of the two persons killed in the police firing.
The police had since claimed that they were acting in “self-defence”. In a press meet, commissioner of police P.S. Harsha had claimed that the “violent crowd had attacked the police” and had injured hundreds of men in uniform. However, the Wenlock district hospital where the police were treated has confirmed that out of 66 persons who had visited the hospital, 64 were released soon after they were given first aid. Two others, who had suffered contusion and lacerations, were hospitalised for 24 hours as a safety measure.
The police, however, appears to have retaliated with heavy force and indiscriminately fired and lathi-charged protestors, killing two and injuring three seriously with bullets. Several others have suffered fractures and deep gashes. In fact, there are videos of senior policemen chiding junior cops for not killing enough. In one chilling video, police inspector Shantaram Kundar of Mangaluru police can be heard telling his subordinates in Kannada, “You have wasted so many rounds of bullets and still not killed enough.”
The video has since gone viral on social media and Kundar has been transferred out of Kadri (Mangalore East) police station.
Although the police acted violently, Ibrahim says since he was surrounded by his family, he was not beaten up. “But at one point they managed to push me into the bus. A young boy, not more than 16 years old, was inside bleeding profusely. He was asking for water. I felt giddy looking at his condition. My daughter was in my arms all along,” he said. Another person who was picked up along with Ibrahim, he says, was let off after the police realised the person was a Hindu. Ibrahim was taken to Town Hall where a large number of people, all Muslims, were rounded up.
“They took down our details and our fingerprints, and let us go after a few hours. I thought since my truth was out in the public, they won’t dare to book me in a false case. But they have done that. I am now accused of rioting and vandalism,” he says.
Ibrahim has challenged the police’s claim and dares them to show a single scrap of evidence that shows him being involved in the protest or pelting stones anywhere. “If the police were to show a single picture or video, I will walk up to the police myself and surrender. I know they have nothing against me and this case, like against a thousand others, is only filed to torture us in the coming years,” Ibrahim says.