Fact finding team blasts Tamil Nadu police for Paramakudi firing
Vol 2 | Issue 42
An interim report of a two-day public inquest conducted by a jury headed by Justice H. Suresh, former Judge of the Mumbai High Court, has recommended a CBI inquiry into the police firings at Paramakudi, Chinthamani and Ilayankudi on September 11, 2011, which led to the death of six dalits.
The killings took place during the guru pooja of dalit leader Immanuel Sekaran, who himself had been murdered on the very same day way back in 1957.
Dalit leader John Pandian deposing before the commission at Madurai
The report also suggested setting up of a Special Court at Paramakudi to deal with complaints from those who had suffered serious injuries in the police attack and recommended posting of police personnel from “other castes than those in the region” to regulate such “gatherings” in future.
In a serious indictment of the police, the report categorically stated that “there was no justification for use of fire arms,” which had “caused injury and death to large number of innocent people who were unarmed and who were in a peaceful assembly / procession to the memorial.”
“In our opinion, this firing / excessive lathi charge amount to offences under IPC and SC ST Atrocities Act,” the report stated.
Besides Justice Suresh, other members of the jury included V Vasanthi Devi (former vice chancellor of M.S. University and former chairperson of Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women), K S Subramanian (former DGP of Tripura), R B Sreekumar (former DGP, Gujarat), senior advocate Sudha Ramalingam, and human rights activists Prof. Kalvi Mani and Thiyagu.
The team described the arrest of dalit leader John Pandian as unwarranted. It was Pandian’s arrest on that ill-fated day that had led to protests in many places and paved the way for the police firing.
A 16-year-old Dalit boy Palanikumar from a village in Ramanathapuram district had been murdered a couple of days ago. Police arrested Pandian to ostensibly prevent him from visiting the boy’s village.
But the jury found the police apprehension that Pandian may have visited the boy’s village causing a law and order problem as “unfounded.” The report pointed out that the authorities had permitted Pandian to pay homage at Immanuel Sekaran’s memorial on September 11, 2011 at a specific time – 3 pm to 5 pm.
As widely alleged, the report echoed the charges of dalits that the police had resorted to unprovoked firing.
The report noted: “It is evident that the police resorted to lathicharge and even while the crowd had dispersed into the various roads leading out of the junction (at Paramakudi), they resorted to firing.
“Shivakumar, Tehshildar, Paramakudi, on whose orders force was resorted to, evaded meeting with members of this team. The Revenue Divisional Officer, meanwhile, confirmed that she was far away from the scene of incidence, and that Mr. Shivakumar had decided to order firing on his own assessment of the situation.
“It is imperative that the Statutory Enquiry is conducted in accordance with law. In our view, the situation could have been handled without such excessive use of force.”
Dubbing the police version that the crowd had resorted to arson as “unfounded,” the report noted, “None of the establishments on the spot bore any evidence of having been set on fire.
“As for a police vehicle (armoured carrier) that was set on fire, it defies common sense that the crowd that was on the run and far away from the five-roads junction, minutes after the lathi-charge began, could set fire to an armoured vehicle at a junction and where the posse of heavily armed policemen in riot control were in full strength.
“There is no evidence of the personnel manning the vehicle resisting too. Further, a fire tender stationed a few yards away could have extinguished the fire,” the report noted.