"Practices such as moral policing, honour killings etc., do not and should not have any place in a modern society. The only way forward for a plural society like ours is to follow the Constitutional values, discard casteism and communalism and promote secularism. Let us remember that “Hate begets hate and Love begets Love" - PUCL statement
Mangalore: As part of " Human Rights Day" People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) -DK under the leadership of PB D'Sa-National PUCL Vice President held a press meet at Mangalore Press Club on 10 December 2013, condemning the brutal attack on V T Prasad, a media person which took place on 28 November 2013, and also moral police and other role/activities of Popular Front of India (PFI). Suresh Bhat- Vice President State PUCL and Colin D'Silva, a member of PUCL were also on the dais.
The following is the press release which was narrated to the media persons during the meet :
PUCL was informed in the early morning of 28 November 2013 of a dastardly mob attack on a media person that took place the previous day. After consultations it was decided to send a team of PUCL representatives for ascertaining the facts of the case. The team comprised of following members: Mr. P.B.D’Sa , Mr. Suresh Bhat and Mr. Kabir Ullal
Hospital Visits :
1. Kasturba Medical College & Hospital, Mangalore
Around 10:00 a.m. the same day two of the team members, viz., P.B.D’Sa and Suresh Bhat went to the Kasturba Medical College & Hospital (popularly known as KMC) at Ambedkar Circle near Jyothi Cinema to meet the victim, Mr. VT Prasad. Since he had been taken for certain scanning and other tests, the team members had to wait for about an hour before they could talk to him. When he was brought back to his room he was conscious and was able to talk. There was a bandage on his nose. His face and generally the entire body including his legs appeared swollen. There were several injuries on both his knees. On his temple, there was an imprint apparently caused by the heel of a chappal/shoe.
Though administered with pain killers he still was reeling with body pain. He told the team that he is a reporter working from Vittal for a Mangalore newspaper called Karavali Ale and has been working for it since the past 11 years. He said he had at one time joined the RSS but that was many years ago and he had left the organization soon thereafter. He confirmed that he is no more a member of RSS since the past several years. Prasad explained that around 11a.m. on 27th he had gone to the nearby Madakatte Primary school where he is an office bearer. While he was talking to the headmaster about the preparations for the forthcoming school annual day function he was called out by group of persons which had just arrived in two auto rickshaws.
It was around 11.30 a.m. He came out immediately and saw Abdul Jabbar and some 40 persons. The crowd then began arguing about Prasad’s involvement with a local Muslim family (Mrs Aleema and her two daughters) and there were loud altercations. He smelt trouble and immediately called the sub-inspector of Vittal Police Station and told him that there was a menacing mob and he was apprehending trouble. Within seconds the crowd began beating him and when he fell down they jumped on his body. Then he was dragged to one of the auto rickshaws and taken to Mrs Aleema’s house. There the beating resumed but this time it was more severe with the reapers and firewood stocked there.
According to Prasad, it was he along with some ten other local friends (a couple of them Muslims) who had arranged for all that wood for the repair of the dilapidated house as requested by Mrs Aleema. Prasad said he and his group had managed to convince the Muslim owner of Karnataka Saw Mills and he has given around Rs 1 lakh worth of rafters and reapers free of cost.
While Prasad was being beaten up the three ladies in the house protested and started crying loudly. The question the boys kept asking Prasad was, why he should help a Muslim family when they are there and the words used were “why a Bhatta (A Hindu Brahmin) should help a Muslim family”. According to Prasad he told them that it was after he had brought the family’s plight to the notice of public through his article that a lot of help had started pouring in. But the mob was not in a mood to listen. They even berated the Muslim women for taking help from a Hindu, and not from them. Prasad was hammered so much that in the end he fell unconscious and woke up only in the hospital. He says the police did not reach the site till after he had fallen unconscious. Prasad also complains that two of his mobiles are missing. Photographs of the site show broken pieces of mobile phone/s
Prasad told the team that among his attackers were members of PFI (Popular Front of India, a Muslim outfit), petty thieves and youth involved in sand and timber smuggling and he knows all of them. Further he revealed that some of them were arrested in the past because of his exposes. According to Prasad he had also been reporting several incidents of moral policing by PFI and hindutva organizations. Another point made by Prasad is that the sub-inspector and some constables of Vittal police station are supporting the sand and timber mafia and he had exposed their activities through his reports. As a result two of the constables had been suspended. Prasad has told the team that he has named at least five of his attackers in his complaint. They are: Abdul Aziz Madaka, Abdul Jabbar, Abdul Hamid, Abubakker Siddique and Unais Bolanthur. He said he has also recognized Farook who is the Divisional Secretary of the PFI for Salethur.
2. Lady Goschen Hospital, Mangalore
Mrs Aleema and her daughter’s Version:
The team then went to Lady Goschen Hospital, where Mrs Aleema and Farah (name changed) the younger daughter were supposedly admitted. In fact this is a maternity hospital. Upon inquiries at the reception counter it was found that admission had been done in the name of the daughter. The mother and daughter were found sitting on a bed in the general ward, chit-chatting with other women. The mother, Mrs Aleema is about 55-60 years old and the daughter is aged about 26 years. Farah told the team that she was already discharged. Both women readily answered the team’s questions.
Describing the events of 27th, Farah said Prasad had come to their house at about 9.30 a.m. and asked for a glass of water and when she was handing it over he touched her hand. She screamed loudly and immediately the neighbours including her cousins came rushing to her rescue. To a query as to whether anybody assaulted her she clearly said “no”. To the team’s next question as to why she was admitted in the hospital, she kept smiling. Since Mrs Aleema did not know Kannada the team talked to her in Tulu language. She repeated her daughter’s story and said that the PFI boys asked them to get admitted to the hospital.
Spot Visit :
At this point Mr PB D’Sa excused himself as he had to attend to some urgent work. Mr Kabir Ullal joined the team and after a brief interlude for lunch the team proceeded to Madakatte to carry out a spot inspection and further investigations. Madakatte is a village under the Kolnadu Gram Panchayat. To reach the place from Mangalore one has to take a deviation from NH 73 at Kalladka (about 30 km from Mangalore), proceed on the road towards Vittal and after a few kilometers take another deviation at Majjoni and drive along on the narrow Majjoni – Kodapadavu road. Madakatte can also be approached from the Salethur - Vittal road. The distance between Madakatte and Vittal is about 12 kilometers.
1. Mrs Aleema’s House
Upon reaching the site the team first went to Kelagina Barebettu, the place where Aleema’s house is located. It is situated on a hill side and is at a higher elevation from the road. Going up a narrow jagged path the team came upon a small, old single storey house built of mud walls and tiled roof. The roof supported by bamboo rafters and reapers was found sagging at several places . There is a courtyard in front of the house as well as on two sides. At the back of the house is the hill side. In the courtyard there were a large number of apparently new wooden reapers and rafters. The rafters were lying under a blue plastic sheet and appeared to be freshly coated with black mud oil (used lubricating oil). There was also another pile of used wooden members.
The latter, about a dozen in number, were in all likelihood salvaged from some old house. Some of these were found half-eaten by white ants. Within a couple of minutes of the team’s arrival, about a dozen youth appeared from nowhere (see Appendix). They said all of them were locals. The team spoke to two of them, Unaisuddin and Hamid.
Unaisuddin and Hamid’s Version
Speaking to the team, Unaisuddin and Hamid said that an organization called “We Help” from Basabettu was the first to approach Mrs Aleema and offer help for repairing the house. According to them, some panchayat members too were part of the “We Help” group. Pointing to the dozen (decayed) pieces of wood the boys said the organization had brought them . But the onset of rains had delayed further work. Meanwhile, they said, Prasad wrote a newspaper article about the house in which he complained that the local organization had failed to keep its promise (see Appendix for report). This had upset “We Help”. On 27th morning at about 9.30 Prasad had come and asked for drinking water. When Farah brought the water he tried to pull her. She screamed and immediately the neighbours rushed to the women’s house and took Prasad to task. Then other locals joined and beat up Prasad. Just as the team was leaving, the mother and daughter arrived in a taxi.
2. Madakatte Primary School
Interview with the Headmaster:
The team’s next visit was to the Madakatte primary school where it met the headmaster Shanker Narayan Bhat. According to him, the school started functioning from the year 1933. The land on which the school is built originally belonged to Prasad’s family. Prasad is an old student and presently the Joint Secretary of the school committee. Prasad’s father had been a teacher in the same school for several years. On 27th morning at around 11.30 Prasad came to the headmaster’s office to discuss the matter of school day celebrations which is scheduled for December 21.
Prasad had a look at the printed invitation card for the event. Suddenly the headmaster saw two auto rickshaws stopping in front of the school gate. Around 20-30 persons got down and started rushing towards the office room. Prasad went out to meet them. The headmaster said he could hear heated arguments and loud voices. Sensing trouble he called the Vittal police station and alerted them about the possibility of an attack. He saw Prasad being put in one of the auto rickshaws and taken from there.
The team members then walked to Prasad’s house which is right in front of the school and on the opposite side of the road. The distance between the two is just about 50 meters. The team talked to the elderly parents of Prasad. The father, N. Krishna Bhat is around 92 and both his vision and hearing are impaired. He told the team that Prasad’s mother was not at home when the incident happened. Though he was at home he could neither see nor hear anything of the commotion taking place inside the school premises.
Interview with the Sub-inspector, Vittal Police Station:
The team then left for Vittal and went directly to the police station. Sub-inspector Madhava Kudlu confirmed receiving Prasad’s distress call on 27th morning. He said he tried to call back but found that the phone was switched off. He said he was busy with his senior officer at that time. But, he said, a team of policemen headed by Dy SP had rushed to the spot with an ambulance and had taken Prasad to a hospital at Puttur. The police have obtained a complaint from Prasad. Similarly a police team has gone to the Lady Goschen Hospital in Mangalore and recorded Fatima’s statement. The sub-inspector confirmed that both FIRs have been prepared. To a question why only two of those named by Prasad had been arrested he replied that the police were on the look out for the other culprits and would apprehend them soon. After much persuasion he handed over a copy of the FIR based on Fatima’s complaint. After this the team returned to Mangalore.
Press Statement by PFI
During the course of a press conference held on November 29 2013 PFI has denied its involvement in the incident. It has condemned the attack on Prasad and attributed it to “people’s anger”.
Farah has charged that there was an attempt to molest her. Prasad has alleged that the mob that attacked him consisted of members of PFI and also some petty thieves and boys working with the local timber and sand mafia whom he had exposed through his articles. An analysis of the statements of various persons and the events surrounding the incident leads to the following observations.
2. The mob attack on VT Prasad is nothing but an act of lynching where a group of persons, whatever may be their grievances, instead of going through the legal route decided to take the law into their own hands.
3. There was undue delay in police response. Recent articles by Prasad suggesting the involvement of the sub-inspector and some other personnel of the Vittal police in the sand and timber smuggling could have led to the police harbouring a grudge against Prasad. This probably explains the delayed response of the police. Because normally it should not take more than 15-20 minutes to cover the distance of approximately 12 kilometers from Vittal to Madakatte. So if Prasad had made the distress call at around11.30 a.m. as claimed by him (it should be possible to verify the claim from police records), the police ought to have reached the site by say 11.50-12.00 noon. Evidence gathered by the team suggests that they reached sometime between12.30 and 1 p.m. Timely intervention by the police could have prevented the attack.
4. As per Prasad many of the boys in the mob that attacked him on 27th were the ones involved in sand and timber smuggling racket and he had quite recently written some articles exposing the mafia. This could have angered them and led to the attack.
5. The attackers shouting “why a Bhatta (a Hindu Brahmin) should help a Muslim family” suggests that there was a moral policing angle to the attack. Prasad has said in his statement that he had seen many PFI activists in the mob that attacked him. It may be noted that according to Prasad he had been reporting several incidents of moral policing by members of PFI as well as the hindutva brigade (Please refer to the photos which will also reveal the report- PUCL is also in possession of an audio clip, said to have been recorded at the site of the incident, wherein one can clearly hear the voice of one person from the crowd saying that he is Farook and he is from PFI and is the secretary of its Salethur division).
6.Prasad and his group had managed to get nearly Rs 1 lakh worth of wood from a Muslim donor. This could have caused a lot of embarrassment and loss of face to the so-called “We Help” group which had supplied just a few pieces of partly moth-eaten wood. As a result they might have decided to take revenge.
7. The charge of ‘attempt to molest’ does not appear convincing after seeing and talking to the alleged victim, Prasad’s colleagues and the school headmaster.
Hence PUCL calls for a thorough and impartial probe, preferably under the supervision of a sitting judge of the Sessions or High Court, into various aspects of the entire incident including the moral policing angle, the charge of molestation, the role of the police, the role of the timber and sand mafia, the role of PFI, the role of the so-called “We Help” group and the possibility of instigation by the disgruntled policemen.
The minority communities of coastal Karnataka have been the target of moral policing of an acute and extreme nature by some communal elements of the majority community since the past several years. As a result many innocent Muslim youth have suffered physical and mental torture at the hands of the hindutva brigade as well as the police. But recent times have seen a new and equally worrying development - that of moral policing by some communal elements of the minority communities. During the last couple of weeks newspapers have reported several such incidents of moral policing involving the minorities in Dakshina Kannada district alone.
Practices such as moral policing, honour killings etc., do not and should not have any place in a modern society. The only way forward for a plural society like ours is to follow the Constitutional values, discard casteism and communalism and promote secularism. Let us remember that “Hate begets hate and Love begets Love"