So far, the Tamil Nadu Police has maintained that they did not indulge in any violence in Chennai while clearing the city of Jallikattu protesters on January 23 and that videos circulating on social media showing so were morphed. A fact-finding report released on January 25 states otherwise.
The report alleges that the police did indulge in violence in Nadukuppam, a Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board tenement near Marina beach, which houses members of the fishing community. As per the report, the police indulged in arson, physical and verbal abuse, destruction of property, and also entered homes of residents. Newspapers have reported similar violence from other areas near Marina too.
The report prepared by an all-women fact-finding team, which included former chairperson of the State Commission for Women V. Vasanthi Devi, says that the violence took place in three waves. The first wave took place between 6 am and 8 am, when a 200 member strong police team chased away injured protesters from the beach side. The police retreated after the women residents offering help to the injured confronted the police.
More police personnel returned later, as per the report, armed with rocks, vessels, bottles, construction debris, and lathis. Claiming to search for “terrorists”, the police allegedly indulged in vandalism this time, entering homes to drag out men, women, and children. The residents told the fact-finding team that the police personnel appeared to be from the Madurai police.
In the third wave, the report claims, while some policemen vandalised vehicles and used tear gas shells and rubber bullets, others set fire to vehicles and the fish market using what appeared to be firecracker powder. They also allegedly looted fish from the market.
In its observations, the team-members have noted that the people of the locality weren’t active participants in the protests and had only gone there for short periods to extend solidarity and that the violence was “totally unprovoked and unjustified”. Since the men go to the sea, the 250 women residents were “the worst victims” of the violence, the report says. Promising compensation, the police also allegedly tried to get the residents to sign a testimony declaring that it was the protestors who had indulged in arson and violence.
The team members have recommended a high-level enquiry and penalty for those guilty, including higher officials. They have also asked the State and National Commission for Women to take note of the attack, and recommended that the city police provide compensation to the residents. “A permanent judicial ombudsman be constituted to adjudicate on police measures that affect civil rights in order to increase transparency and accountability of senior police officers,” the report demands.
The fact-finding team comprised of Dr. V. Vasanthi Devi, former Chairperson of the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women, Dr. Anandhi Shanmugasundaram, Associate Professor at Madras Institute of Development Studies, Poongkhulali Balasubramanian, Advocate at Madras High Court, and Chandrika Ramanujam of Thozilalar Koodam and TN Labour Blog. The fact-finding was organised and assisted by Chennai Solidarity Group in the afternoon of January 24.