AT SIDDHARTH Colony near Chembur Naka, where protesters had gathered in a massive number on Tuesday, residents claimed that police allegedly barged into their homes late in the night, threatened and assaulted them. Four from the colony – three from a family including a 15-year old boy – sustained head injuries in the alleged assault and were admitted to a hospital Tuesday night.
One of the men assaulted was 27-year-old Pramod Kamble, who said that he was returning from work. “I was aware of the protests in the city due to the incident at Bhima Koregaon but could not take leave from work. I went at 2pm and left work by 10pm. Just as I was entering the colony around 11pm, I saw a group of policemen hitting people with their lathis. I tried entering a small lane but it was a dead-end. At least 2-3 cops began hitting me with the fibre lathi on my head,” said Kamble, lying on the hospital bed.
The other three admitted at nearby Sushrut Hospital also sustained injuries to their heads. “Even if the police claim that they were lathi-charging protesters, how could all have been assaulted on the head?” asked Kamble.
Working as a flight attendant and the only earner in his family of four, including his parents and sister, Kamble has sustained four stitches on his forehead, right above his left eye and injuries to his back. “They can check his attendance register at the airport to see that he was at work throughout the day and was not even participating in the protests,” said his relative, Sushant Kamble.
In the small doorless home of the Shejwals, also in Siddharth Colony at the Eastern Express Highway end, 50-year-old Ramesh Shejwal sits with a bandage on his head above his left ear having sustained three stitches. His 15-year-old son Ritesh and 36-year-old brother Ashok continue to remain admitted with eight and 13 stitches respectively, also on the head.
“At around 11pm, there was no protest happening on the highway. A neighbour had come to say that our bike parked near the garden outside was smelling of petrol. To ensure it was not leaking, Ritesh went out. The police barged inside the garden gate and began hitting anyone they saw. They hit my son. My husband and brother-in-law went ahead to intervene and they also were assaulted on their heads. The police came right to our doorsteps,” said Ramesh’s wife Manisha.
Showing the bloodied shirts, she added that hearing her scream, other neighbours came running to her assistance. “The police did not help us take them to the hospital though they were bleeding. We carried them to the hospital on foot,” Manisha said.
Other neighbours claimed that the police had barged into the colony, hitting their doors with sticks and asking them to switch off the lights. Residents also claimed that some vehicles were vandalised by the policemen.
“They are our protectors and not our enemies. But, this time they attacked us. It felt like they were venting out their anger on us,” said Ramesh, adding that two police officials had come to the hospital to record their statements. “I was made to sign on the statement though I was not informed about what they had written,” he said.
Residents claimed that the policemen were from the local Chembur police station. On Tuesday, while one police constable from Chembur police station sustained an eye injury after a glass shard had pierced his left eye, the assistant commissioner of Chembur division suffered a fracture on his left hand.
Other residents of Siddharth Colony also claimed that the police detained many without intimating their kin. “The police have detained my brother, Gautam since Tuesday afternoon. We went to Chembur police station but we were not even allowed to meet him. The police asked us to go back,” said Lalita Kamble.
Additional Commissioner of Police (East Region) Lakhmi Gautam said, “I have been told about this allegation. I have called for the medical reports of the men admitted in the hospital. We will also be examining the FIR registered against people in the area for indulging in activities like burning of tyres and blockage of roads. About the detention, proper procedure has been followed and the arrested persons have been produced before the court.”