Abhijith Kolpe
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru

Mangaluru, Apr 14: The recent police lathi charge on the activists of Popular Front of India (PFI) brought Mangaluru into news once again for the wrong reasons. The incident drew widespread condemnation from a few quarters. While PFI activists claimed the harassment of an accused in police custody, police officials said that the agitated protestors pelted stones at the police commissioner's office and at the cops injuring several police personnel, which resulted in lathi charge.

According to superintendent of Wenlock Hospital Rajeshwari Devi, the accused, Ahmed Qureshi, was treated well by the team of doctors. He was also under dialysis as there was slight fluctuation in the functioning of his kidneys. Qureshi was later shifted to private hospital on the court's order. He has now been discharged and taken into custody again.

The incident

Tension surfaced on April 4 near AB Shetty Circle in the city when PFI activists who had gathered demanding justice to Ahmed Qureshi, who was arrested by the police in connection with the murder attempt on BJP activist Prakash Poojary (in Suratkal).

The agitators were stopped by the police, apparently as they had not sought prior permission to stage their protest. The protestors also tried to lay siege to the police commissioner's office. Not heeding to the police orders to withdraw the protest, the activists allegedly started pelting stones at vehicles. Police had to resort to lathi charge to control the violent mob.

File Photos

As many as 12 police personnel and five protesters suffered injuries, apart from injuries sustained by the activists. Ninety-eight PFI activists were detained.

The activists alleged that Qureshi was tortured in police custody, and claimed that his kidney was damaged as a result.

Why lathi charge

A senior police officer who preferred to be anonymous said, "Any organisation while holding a protest has to first obbtain necessary permission from the jurisdiction. It should also state its agenda for the protest along with the total strength and the duration. That helps police to plan accordingly to provide security to general public and keep a check on the law and order. The police are not against anyone. Everyone has the right to protest. It is always good as long as it is peaceful.

"There was a Ram Navami programme organised by a Hindu organisation at Nehru Maidan on the same day. Police were concerned about that too. PFI activists at the same time came in large numbers from three directions, Rao and Rao Circle, A B Shetty Circle and Police circle, and assembled in front of the commissioner's office. Motorists and general public were put into trouble. All we did was stop the activists from creating more trouble. They also pelted stones at buses and tried to damage public property. Police personnel were injured. Their arrival from three directions proves that they planned their protest with the sole purpose of creating tension," the police officer said.

On Ahmed Qureshi's alleged torture

"PFI is blaming the police unnecessarily. When Ahmed Qureshi was produced before the magistrate, he did not reveal anything about the alleged atrocities of police. From other reliable sources, we found that he had some health issues. He was taken to government Wenlock Hospital for medication.

"Even after he was admitted to a private hospital following an affidavit from the family, he did not speak anything about the alleged atrocities. On March 31, that was four days after he was admitted, he revealed that he was tortured in police custody. A conspiracy was hatched to put the blame on police for Qureshi's kidney failure. Atrocities can never be the reason for kidney failure. It is impossible," the officer said.

"PFI spreading rumours"

The police officer further said that the PFI was spreading rumours. "If PFI was concerned about Qureshi, it should have discussed the issue with the police commissioner, submitted a memorandum and get the enquiry done. Instead, they (PFI) are spreading false propaganda with the help of social media. They are claiming that Qureshi is innocent. For their information, Qureshi is a repeat offender and is involved in two attempt-to-murder cases. In 2014, he attacked Sudharshan and Prakash Poojary with lethal weapons at Suratkal."

"PFI fearing ban"

The police officer also expressed suspicions that the PFI had created this issue fearing ban on the organization. "Another person, Khader Kulai, who is also the president of PFI Suratkal block, was also involved in the assault and is absconding ever since the crime took place. As Khader Kulai is a PFI representative, there could be a ban on the organisation. Fearing the ban, the activists are defending Qureshi and trying to create problems. Khader Kulai is the conspirator and facilitator behind this.

"PFI steps in only to defend culprits and trigger riots. This is not the first time they are supporting a criminal. In 2016, they had supported Safiulla, one of the accused in the Charan murder case at Vamanjoor. Who are they to decide if someone is innocent? There is court to give justice. PFI involves in such situations for political or financial gains. They were not known earlier, but the lathi charge incident gave them so much publicity," he said.

"Prakash Poojary who was attacked with lethal weapons, survived miraculously. He was economically poor and was finding it difficult to pay for his treatment. Today he is leading his life with great difficulty. Prakash was going for lunch after his work when he was brutally attacked. Does he not have human rights? Does he not deserve justice?" the officer said.

"Attack on ASI Aithappa a retaliation"

The officer said that the attack on ASI Aithappa of Urwa police station was a retaliation for the lathi charge on the PFI activists. "It was a retaliation for the lathi charge done on PFI activists. The attackers were trying to target the senior CCB police. As the protestors were confined to Urwa police station, they found ASI Aithappa who was taking rounds near Ladyhill. He was attacked by two people.

"ASI Aithappa is now recovering. Everyone from constable to the commissioner got together and collected Rs 50,000 which was donated to the ASI's family for his treatment along with a four-wheeler for emergency. The police department was enraged by the incident and caught the culprits within four days," he said.

What PFI has to say

On the other hand, the PFI still holds the police responsible for what has happened to Qureshi. According to PFI president Nawaz, Qureshi is still critical and was discharged from the hospital even before recovery.

"Doctors informed that Qureshi's kidney had failed and he was under treatment. The police department is simply issuing statements that he has completely recovered. This issue has spread state-wide now. Many organisations have offered us support to fight for Qureshi. We had discussions with former mayor Ashraf as well."

Qureshi's family, lawyer blame police

Nishad Qureshi, brother of Ahmed Qureshi says, "Police discharged my brother from hospital without informing the family members. Why did they do so? We have been through a lot. I pray that no one should go through the experience what my brother went through. We will keep fighting for justice. I was deeply hurt the way police cooked up the story against my brother. We will consult with our lawyer and go according law."

Advocate Dinesh Ulaipady who is the counsel for Qureshi's family questions, "How was Qureshi discharged without his bills in the hospital being cleared? Who paid the bill? There is no such system where the government pays the bill in a private hospital. If the government has not paid, did the police do it? "

He also said, "This incident is a violation of human rights and the hospital will be equally responsible for it. Qureshi was illegally detained and beaten up which is equal to attempt to murder. We will register a case against the police as well as the doctor for involving in this conspiracy."