Priest alleges assault by cops

The Superintendent of Police (Pune Rural) is inquiring into a complaint filed by the State Minorities Commission regarding police brutality on a parish priest of the Lonavala Church.

Written by Aditya Paul | Mumbai | Published:January 18, 2009 1:17 am

SP to probe the issue after receiving complaint from State Minorities Commission

The Superintendent of Police (Pune Rural) is inquiring into a complaint filed by the State Minorities Commission regarding police brutality on a parish priest of the Lonavala Church. The complaint from the priest also stated that he was targeted because of his religion.

The priest,Father Wilfred Fernandes,who is also the manager of St Joseph’s Primary School at Lonavala,was allegedly stripped and assaulted by some cops attached to the Lonavala police station. As per his statement,he was accused of using a ruler while chastising a student. According to Father Wilfred,on December 12,2008,he found a few students misbehaving despite being warned. He then reportedly hit them with a ruler.

Next day,parents of one of the boys called him to speak with him and allegedly assembled a mob of 20-25 parents and others. They threatened to shut the school down. As the mob turned violent,Father Fernandes went to the police station. However,when he reached the police station,the officers in-charge apparently asked him to strip and hit him with a belt. Frightened,Father Fernandes approached the State Minorities Commission,who in turn sent an application to the SP office demanding stringent action against the accused.

“The day after I had hit the students with the ruler,parents of a child approached me and asked me to meet them outside the school office. Later,I came to know that they were trying to organise a mob. So I went to the gate,” said Father Wilfred. “When I reached the gate,I saw a mob and despite my apologies,they turned violent and threatened to shut the school down. There were some local politicians also in the mob. As I was frightened,I approached the police. But they were also against me after they saw some politicians in the mob. They asked me to strip and hit my hands with a belt. After this,they locked me up for a few hours. Finally,I got out and spoke to my Bishop who asked me to speak to the State Minorities Commission,” he said.

“I told the commission that I didn’t know whom to complain. I was sure that the local police would not take my complaint,” said the Father. Asked if he felt he was being targeted because of his faith,he said,“Yes,I think I am being targeted because of my faith. I was harassed by the police.”

The Superintendent of Police (Pune Rural) R Kadam said,“We are inquiring into the incident. When it is confirmed we will have an identification parade of the officers in the police station. Those who are found guilty will be reprimanded.”

When contacted,Dr Abraham Mathai,the vice chairperson of the State Minorities Commission,said,“I have demanded a very stringent action against those involved. The police,who should give protection,themselves did such a thing. I find it very funny that they haven’t had an identification parade yet. I think they are delaying it so that the father would not be able to identify the officers involved.”

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