People’s Tribunal on the Police firings in Mangalore on 19 Dec 2019

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People’s Tribunal on the Police firings in Mangalore on 19 Dec 2019

Mangaluru: This Tribunal has been formed to listen to people’s account of the violence that unfolded in Mangalore on 19th December 2019. Over the course of the past two days (6th-7th January), this Tribunal has heard testimonies from victims, victims’ families, families of the deceased, media persons, doctors and hospital administrators. The testimonies will help the Tribunal to ascertain the nature of the events that transpired on 19th December. The Tribunal has also collected copies of the complaints lodged by the aggrieved, video footage, photos, medical records, and other material evidence to check the veracity of the claims made regarding the violence.

It must be stated that the Tribunal does not seek to make observations on the anti-CAA protests that have been organised in Mangalore and other parts of the country. The observations of the Tribunal are limited to the events of 19th December. A final report will be placed before the public soon. The Tribunal came to Mangalore with a view to collect the facts with regard to the incident on 19th December by thoroughly examining the testimonies before it.

On 6th January, the Tribunal heard testimonies from victims and their family members, families of the deceased, journalists present at the scene of the violence and prominent members of the local community. The invitation to depose before the Tribunal and share their experiences was extended to not just civil society, but also to officials especially the police. On 7th January, the members of the Tribunal visited some of the victims who are currently receiving medical treatment at Highland Hospital and Unity Hospital. The Tribunal also conducted spot visits at some of the areas that were most severely affected by the violence on the 19th of December.

The very conduct of the proceedings of this Tribunal was sought to be interfered with by the Mangalore Police Administration on multiple occasions with a deliberate intention to see that the truth of the incident shall not be disclosed to the public. On 5th January 2019, a notice was addressed to one of the organisers which sought to preclude the Tribunal from conducting any hearing on the events of 19th December. It is still unclear on what grounds the notice was issued. Despite the Organisers’ insistence that the People’s Tribunal was a civil society initiative to create a public forum where grievances could be aired by the aggrieved persons and the public, the Police authorities alleged that this process interfered with on-going legal proceedings including a magisterial enquiry. Despite the fact that permission was initially sought from the Mangalore Commissioner of Police, a notice dated 5/01/2020 was issued by Inspector Govindraju B, Mangalore North Police Station to one of the organisers of the People’s Tribunal. This course of action has been undertaken in an arbitrary manner without the authority of law by the said Inspector.

There have been further instances of obstruction of the Tribunal’s proceedings. After the hearing commenced on 6th January 2020, it was halted for over an hour as the venue’s owner expressed his reservations with the nature of the event. He cited the aforementioned notice and stated that he was wary of reprisals from the police and other authorities.

Once the hearing and visits were completed by the Tribunal, a Press Conference was scheduled to be held to apprise the media of the observations of the Tribunal. However, under pressure from police authorities, it has become impossible for the People’s Tribunal to hold a Press Conference at any venue at this point in time as a number of hoteliers were only willing to provide a venue for the Press Conference on the condition that the organisers obtain permission from police authorities, which is not required in law. The public has a right to know of matters concerning violence against civilians as the police authorities are accountable to the people with regard to the events of 19th December. Therefore, with a fair mind, we will go into the testimonies of the witnesses that we have collected and prepare a final report that will stand the test of credibility in the eyes of all the concerned with regard to the incident on 19th December.

Members of the Tribunal: Chairman- Justice (Retd.) V. Gopala Gowda (Former Judge of the Supreme Court of India);
Members- Mr B T Venkatesh (Former State Public Prosecutor) and Mr Sugata Srinivasaraju (Senior Journalist)

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1 Comment

  1. Finally! at least one member of the “chocolate press” of Mangalore stood up for press freedom and “freedom of expression”. Attaboy!

    Congratulations for responsible journalism and for defending the “freedom of the press”.

    “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few. The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten. The living sap of today outgrows the dead rind of yesterday. The hand entrusted with power becomes, either from human depravity or esprit de corps, the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continued oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot; only by unintermitted agitation can a people be sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.” – American Abolitionist and liberal activist Wendell Phillips, January 28, 1852.

    My appreciation to Justice (Retd.) V. Gopala Gowda ,Mr B T Venkatesh, Mr Sugata Srinivasaraju.

    Only those who have something to hide are scared of transparency. Here we are talking about events that have taken place in the public domain and not the private life of individuals! I cannot fathom the paranoia displayed by the “we have nothing to hide” officialdom.

    “Jan Sunvayi’s” were and are an integral part of the RTI movement of India.
    Nobody is stopping the elected government and the “public servants” from conducting official enquiries and investigations, theirs will always be the official version.

    In a democratic republic established on the principles of Liberty, the government has no business interfering with people from talking or meeting with each other.

    That being said what goes around comes around, all those who have been proscribing unbridled freedom of expression, since 1947, lose the moral high ground to seek that right for themselves when the Damocles sword of authoritarianism hangs over their heads. All those “simply waiting to be offended’ers”: the entire country suffers on account of you and your ilk . Remember the banning of Satanic Verses , The Last Temptation of Christ; remember driving away M.F. Hussain; remember the Danish cartoons! &c. They are all coming back to bite us!

    Only and only unfettered freedom of expression can save democracy!

    Freedom of expression is when a first generation American ( born of immigrants from Gujarat,India) , Hasan Minhaj , gets invited to the WHCA dinner and, among others, roasts Donald Trump, the then newly elected President of the United States of America and yet continues to live with respect,freedom, liberty and dignity!

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