Excessive force

Police brutality in Karwar is inexcusable.

The protesters were reportedly kicked, beaten with canes. There were several elderly women, even toddlers among the injured. Opposition to the power plant at Hanakon has been building up for some time. Many locals are opposed to it as the project is likely to displace thousands of fisherfolk and their families. Environmentalists too are up in arms against the project as it is expected to destroy the biodiversity in the region. It is said that many of the local villagers are angry that neither project authorities nor elected representatives have been responsive to their grievances. The brutal response of the police to their protest demonstrations last week will have fuelled their anger further. The police have alleged that they used force because the protest was not peaceful.

The demonstrators had pelted stones apparently. Still, beating up protesters, especially elderly women and children, as savagely as they did is not the way to deal with demonstrations.

It is the duty of the police to control public disorder and violence. But in discharging this duty they need to be more circumspect. For one they need to bear in mind that peaceful demonstrations are a legitimate form of protest in a democracy. Besides, they cannot wield their batons, burst teargas shells or shoot into crowds at the first sight of a large, noisy crowd. The use of force has to be the last resort always. And even this cannot be excessive.
 There is no doubt that the police action in Karwar was excessive. A full probe into why it happened is essential. Local villagers have alleged that the heavy-handed police response to the demonstration was prompted by vested interests. There have been several instances where mining companies and manufacturing units have used the local police to evict tribals and villagers from the land. In the process, largely peaceful protests quickly escalated into angry armed struggles. The protests in Karwar have their roots in genuine grievances which need to be addressed. Failure to do so will aggravate the situation.

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