Police targeted the protesters; shot at head: Victims’ families

Police targeted the protesters; shot at head: Victims’ families

Activists from Trade Union of Communist Party of India during a protest against the Thoothukudi police firing, which claimed 13 lives,in Chennai, on Wednesday. PTI

Jhansi Rani had just come out of her house in Thirespuram area near the Thoothukudi beach on Tuesday evening to go to the neighbourhood grocery shop.

That is when a huge police contingent had come to the area for routine patrol and had rounded up a group of youth who had gathered there.

Rani, outspoken by nature and a brave woman, engaged with the police seeking to know why the youngsters were rounded up.

And as the police battled with stones that came from both sides, they resorted to mild force in the beginning and later used guns to disperse the crowd.

Rani died instantly after being hit by a bullet to her head.

"Her death was so gory that the skull broke and her brain was thrown out on the streets. And the police did not stop at that. They dragged her body out of the area, bundled it into a vehicle and transported it to the government hospital," Robert Villavarayar, Rani’s relative, told DH.

Villavarayar raised doubts at the intention of the police in bringing assault rifles to an otherwise peaceful area for routine patrol.

"What was the need to bring rifles?" he asked.

Rani's neighbours also said the police fired at the woman unprovoked and even roughed up many men, besides picking up youngsters into custody.

"Who will cater to her children now?" Robert asked. Not just Villavarayar, many people who spoke to DH in Thoothukudi alleged that police orchestrated the violence only to disperse the crowd.

Robert, a fisherman, said it seems the police deliberately let us inside the collectorate only to violently act against the protesters.

"We were standing as a group in the collectorate premises. And we could hear screams of people and gunshots from across the area. How did policemen take positions inside the premises if the decision to fire was taken as the last resort?" he asked.

At the government hospital and on the streets, one could hear murmurs of several men being taken into police custody and others under "illegal custody" without giving any reasons.

Albert Muthuraj, another fisherman, alleged that the police resorted to suspending electricity supply in several areas to take people into "illegal custody".

"Even two days after the protests, the policemen are still not exercising restraint. They should at least let the city return to normalcy," he said.

When contacted, a senior police officer, currently in Thoothukudi, refuted allegations of targeted shooting and that people were shot from point-blank range.