On Thursday, when protesters opposing the new citizenship law clashed with policemen in Mangaluru, CCTV cameras at the city’s Highland Hospital caught policemen attacking the hospital to target protesters.
Soon after police firing occurred in the Bunder region of the city, nine people were rushed to the hospital. Two people — Abdul Jaleel (49) and Naushin K (24) — were brought dead with bullet wounds in the eye and the back respectively, two others were seriously injured by bullets and others had injuries from police beatings or stone pelting, hospital officials said.
“Soon after the news spread of the victims from the protests being at the hospital, a small crowd gathered near the hospital. As a precaution and given the situation, we alerted the police and sought security. We called the police for security but they ended up firing three tear gas shells in the hospital and scaring patients and staff by barging in and trying to find protesters in the hospital rooms,’’ a senior Highland Hospital official, who did not want to be named, said.
The CCTV footage at the Highlands Hospital shows a group of youths entering the hospital premises shouting slogans at 6.06 pm on Thursday – an hour after the dead and injured were brought in. A few minutes later, one of the youths in the hospital compound is seen throwing a stone outside the hospital wall.
Within minutes, a tear gas shell lands in the front yard of the hospital. “It seems that the group of men who came into the hospital compound threw stones at a bus on the main road before coming into the hospital premises and the police followed them,” said the hospital official.
Subsequent footage from the CCTV cameras shows the police entering the hospital compound and beating up persons found standing around before entering the ground floor, where special wards and an ICU are located, and trying to kick open doors in an attempt to find protesters they suspected to have been in the front yard.
“When they opened some of the ward doors, they found only patients and their attenders. They then tried to enter the ICU,” a hospital official said, corroborating visuals seen on the CCTV footage. “Our staff, attenders of patients were among those who were in the front area when the commotion occurred and the police entered. They ran helter-skelter in fear and the police thought they were the protesters.”
A total of 60 patients apart, from the nine victims of the police violence, were at the hospital when the police entered to look for protesters from the streets, the official said.
“In the night, the police came into the hospital and created a ruckus. All the patients and the staff were scared and hiding,” said Abu Sali, 45, who suffered a bullet injury on his right arm in the police firing and was admitted at the hospital.
“The tear gas shells that were fired in the hospital caused difficulty in breathing for some of our patients with heart problems. Two of them had to be shifted into ICU after the incident for ventilator support,” Dr Mubarak, an intensive medicine specialist, said.
Highland Hospital officials have decided to approach an association for hospitals and the Indian Medical Association with complaints about the police action at the hospital premises.
Senior police officials said the police tear gassed the hospital and entered its premises only because protesters were pelting stones from its campus. There is, however, a general sense in the city that the police used excessive force to control violence on Thursday. “The violence cannot be condoned but the police used excessive force… (that) is the sense that we get,” said rationalist Narendra Nayak.
The Mangalore police commissioner said that the police resorted to firing in “self defence’’ from apprehension that the protesters in the Bunder area would attack the local police station outside which protesters gathered.
“The police commissioner called Muslim leaders and told them to convince the protesters to back down. Local leaders like former mayor K Ashraf and others convinced the protesters and they were dispersing when the police firing started,” said Wahab Kudroli, an activist.
Ashraf is among those in intensive care following the violence.
“To control a crowd of around 150 people, there was no need to fire. Tear gas shells would have dispersed the crowds. We do not know why firing was considered necessary,” Congress MLC Ivan D’Souza said.
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