Six persons from the Muslim fishing community were killed when the Kerala police opened fire to end a clash between two groups in the Cheriyathura-Beemapally coastal area on the outskirts of the Thiruvananthapuram city on Sunday evening ( May 17, 2009). In the police firing four Muslims were killed on the spot while two died later in the hospital. The dead as identified as Ahammed Saleem (50), Badusha (35), Syed Alavi (24), Abdul Hakkeem (27), Firoz (!5). Kanni Haji (63) succumbed to his injuries on 19th May and the toll rose to six.Thirty- eight persons who were injured in the clashes have been admitted to the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital and several others were admitted to a private hospital. Among three of the admitted, Shafeeq (21), Sajeer (22), Ali (34) are having serious head injury.
The clashes erupted after a local mafia boss called Shibu tried to extort money from small shops and vehicles belongs to Muslim fisherman community in Beemapally area on Saturday. However, the extortionists were manhandled by the locals as a protest against mafia rule in the impoverished suburban area. The criminal gang returned to the area with more people and started pelting stones at shops and nearby houses. They also torched boats and fishing nets and damaged shops in the area. Scores were injured as the attacks continued on Sunday. The Natives of Cheriyathura from where the mafia leader comes, allegedly blocked the movement of vehicles to Beemapally area. An irate group from Beemapally went to Cheriyathura and attacked those who blocked the vehicles. Police inaction in arresting the mafia leader Shibu alias Komba Shibu resulted in mass resistance of fishing community. The community leaders said even before the incidents, they submitted complaint to the district authorities about the extortionism prevails in the area by the same notorious drug leader Komba Shibu.
The irate crowd pelted stones at police demanding the arrest of mafia leader. Soon, the police, under Deputy Commissioner A V George, opened fire to disperse a violent mob assembled at the beach. But locals alleged that police fired at the crowd without warning. Police should have been able to use tear gas or rubber bullet to disperse the crowd. Witness reports says that police fired at throat and chest of the dead and even by chasing the crowd from behind. While two bodies were removed to the medical college hospital, two others were kept in a house as community leaders were not handing them over to the police, demanding a judicial probe. Police even denied access to medical facilities to the injured. Victims says that police was unnecessarily trying to make the clashes as communal, while they were responding against mafia – police nexus.
Dr. M.S. Jaya Prakash, the president of Kerala chapter of NCHRO termed police action as ‘state terrorism’. Police forces failed to protect the life of public from extortionists and responded to the masses without provocation. None of the police forces were injured during the clashes and it seriousely questions the reasoning behind police fire. In the past, Kerala Police didn’t acted in such a bad way even when one policemen was killed in Muthanga by tribals or the Senior Police Officer was bombed by angry political mob in Kannur. Those who orchestrated the police fire should be legally charged for manhunt, he demanded.
People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) officials said the Kerala’s civic society is in great shock to hear the clashes and police firing. A fact finding mission was formed by PUCL for deeper study which lead to the events. B.R.P. Bhaskar, C. Gowri Dasan Nair, T.K. Vinodan, Adv. P. Chandra Shekharan, Adv. P. Pouran, Jacob Lasar, R. Ajayan, Adv. Thushar Nirmal Saradhi, Adv. Muhsin, R. Geetha, P.C. Das will be the members of the PUCL mission.
Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who was in New Delhi, appealed to the people to remain calm. “Adequate compensation would be given to those who have suffered damages and (the goevrnment) will do the needful for those who lost their lives,” Achuthanandan said. N. Ramachandran Nair, the senior leader of Communist Party of India demanded strict action against police.
Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who is also in New Delhi, said the violence had nothing to do with the Lok Sabha election results announced Saturday, adding he would return here at the earliest.
Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy of the Congress Sunday night told reporters here that there was a lapse on the part of the police and a small clash had flared up into a tragedy.
“A judicial inquiry has to be announced into the incident,” said Chandy. A company of the Central Reserve Police Force has has been deployed in the area and a group of the Rapid Action Force was on its way to the place, officials said. Muslim organizations demanded massive shut down of Thiruvananthapuram city to protest against irresponsible police firing.