KASARGOD: Kareem Saheb, 68, a resident of Vorkady in Kasaragod district, was in Mangaluru on December 19, when the police opened fire on people protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The firing at Bunder killed two persons and injured many.
Kareem made the trip to the city to renew his driving licence.
Years ago, he took the licence with the address of his sister, who lives in Kudroli. As the date of expiry of his licence neared, he went to a driving school, made the payment and waited for the call. The Regional Transport Office (RTO) in Mangaluru gave him the appointment on December 19.
“I called up the driving school to change the date because I heard there will be a protest on the date. But the school said if I did not turn up, I will lose the deposit,” he said. Kareem reached the office at 10.30 am, and after the due procedure, he took a bus back to Talapady on the border with Manjeshwar in Kasaragod. “I was home by 1.30 pm and had my lunch with my family,” he said.
A month on, Kareem gets a notice from the Mangaluru police asking him to appear before the Assistant Commissioner on January 20.
The notice -- sent by the Assistant Commissioner of Police of City Crime Records Bureau -- said: “.. (a) credible source of information has been received showing your involvement as a member of unlawful assembly continuing to commit rioting with organised conspiracy and common intention to disrupt the public order by violating the order promulgated by the competent authority”.
The notice charges him with 13 counts of crimes, including IPC sections 307 (attempt to murder), 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with a deadly weapon), 188 (disobedience to order by public servant), 353 (assault to deter public servant from discharging duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to public servant), 324 (assault with deadly weapon), 427 (damage to property), and 120 (b) read with Section 149 (criminal conspiracy). He also faces charges under the Karnataka Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
Kareem said his bus passed by the State Bank Junction, and signals from his phone might have pinged off from the mobile towers in the area.
“I am sure that is why I got the notice. This is clear harassment,” he said. The Mangaluru police have sent notices to 650 people from Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod districts. According to reports, the police have zeroed in on 2,000 people from Kerala who were in the city on December 19, and they would get the summons notice.
Ahmed Asif, 35, a resident of Chengala in Kasaragod, runs a granite business and goes to Mangaluru thrice a month to lathe his quarry machinery. On December 19, he was at the workshop near State Bank Junction behind the Forum Mall.
“When I got the notice on Saturday, I called up the workshop owner to check if he had installed CCTV cameras. The footage would prove my innocence. But the owner said he would come with me to the police to say I was there. I have the bills, in case that is not sufficient,” he said.
Asif said he met two of his close friends from Kasaragod near the lathe workshop the same day.
“But they have not received any notice,” he said. Asif said his name is Ahmed Asif but the notice stated it as Mohammed Asif.
“They got my phone number right,” he said.
He also has to appear before the police on Tuesday.
Congress leader and district panchayat standing committee member Harshad Vorkady said the Mangaluru police were harassing residents of Kerala.
“On the day police killed two protesters, police commissioner P S Harsha blamed the people of Kerala for the violence in the city. Now, they are sending notices to whoever was in the city to justify the statement,” said Harshad.
“It is a cover-up exercise. Chief Minister should intervene in the issue,” he said.
The Congress leader accompanied 10 such people to the Mangaluru police.
“When I told the commissioner that his police should not harass people from Kerala, he got angry because I used the word ‘harass’,” he said. Harshad said the police had told him that the Crime Investigation Department, which has taken over the case, would send summons notice again.
Many, who got the notices, were regulars to the city, such as fish sellers, students, and patients and their caregivers, he said. Mohammed Rafeek, 31, a fish vendor, is clueless on what to do with the notice. Every day, he goes to Bunder harbour at 5 am to buy fish for his stall at Udyavar in Manjeshwar.
“I don’t have a break. I go to Bunder all 365 days and return to my shop by 8.30 am with fish. I have been doing this for 13 years. The slip from the toll gate at Talapady will vouch for it,” he said. “But what should I do? Should I hire a lawyer from Kerala and go before meeting the police. Kerala lawyers will fight my case better, I think,” he said. His date is also January 21, Tuesday.
‘No need to appear in person’
Lok Sabha member Rajmohan Unnithan said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should call an all-party meeting to discuss the summon notice sent to people in Kerala by the Mangaluru police. MLA N A Nellikkunnu said he spoke to the city police commissioner Harsha.
“The officer said those who got the summons need not appear in person as mentioned in the notice. They can write back explaining their presence in Mangaluru on December 19. If the police find the explanation satisfactory, there will be no action against them,” the MLA said.
The calls made to the commissioner went unattended.