What really happened in Bangalore 25 days ago?

The mindless violence that gripped the City Court premises in Bangalore on March 2, 2012 has left an indelible imprint on three vital organs of democracy—the judiciary, the police and the media—especially at a time when the legislature and the executive are in an extended state of paralysis.

While the lawyers and the media have happily hurled charges at each other, the police, 57 of whom were injured in the incident, have suffered silently. They briefly wore black badges demanding “security” to carry out their duties before they were advised against it.

Here, the TV personality Deepak Thimaya recounts a conversation with a police officer.

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By DEEPAK THIMAYA

What happened on the 2nd of March in the City Court premises in Bangalore?

We have heard the journalists’ and the lawyers’ versions and have already seen enough pictures of the atrocities done by the police. The lawyer community is seething with anger against the police brutality and the media has not stopped complaining about the mischief of some lawyers who started it all.

A new dimension to this whole episode was available after a police officer present in the scene and  part of the whole happenings from morning to evening on the 2nd of March, spoke his mind and his heart which definitely a different version.

He said:

“We knew there would be trouble. From morning many lawyers would come and ask us whether the media would arrive to cover the proceedings in the Janardhana Reddy case.

“Some lawyers were expressing things like ‘Look what the media did to us after our protest at the Mysore Bank Circle? They spoiled our image and made us look like villains in the society. We were belittled in eyes of the goons and thugs we were supposed bring to justice. We don’t want them here.’

“We thought it was not a serious threat but knew that there would be some attempt to disrupt the media coverage when they would come.

“An enclosure was made outside the court premises adjoining the metal barricade on one side of the open space in front of the court building. The media guys were standing there along with their equipments, OB vans and other personnel.

“Then there was rumour that Reddy would be brought into the court through another entrance from the adjoining main road leading to Mysore Bank Circle. After hearing this some media persons started running back and forth between the two points where they expected Reddy’s arrival.

“Some young lawyers were already enraged by the sight of the media people in and around the court premises. Though most of the people stayed in the enclosure, some cameramen and reporters tried to enter the premises and in the process drew ire from the lawyers present.

“Lawyers started telling the police that things would not be alright if the media were moving about in an unrestricted manner. In the meantime Reddy was produced in the court and was taken away. There was a big crowd and some media people indeed moved in to get a better coverage of Reddy’s case.

“On the sideline a scuffle was brewing between a few lawyers and some media men.

“Some lawyers went near the barricade and started threatening the media people to go away and the body language was vehement and unpleasant. Some young media professionals too reacted in a manner that provoked the lawyers to get enraged. While this was on one person pulled a camera tripod from the enclosure into the court ground.

“A dirty scuffle ensued between the lawyers and the media men.

“There were more than a hundred media men and a few dozens of lawyers when the fight broke out. When the scuffle continued more lawyers joined and the situation became worse. The lawyers targeted the equipment more than they did the media professionals.

“Very few media guys were injured.

“We did not actually take any action against the lawyers in the beginning. After Reddy was taken away, the scuffle developed into a full blown violence with a lot of commotion where we were unable to make out as to who exactly was who. By then hundreds of lawyers had gathered in the open space and some had even removed their coats and had gotten into fist fights. We were to an extent not able to distinguish lawyers from others in plain clothes.

“We tried to disperse them by just shoving them away, but when the lawyers started pelting stones on OB vans and setting fire to media vehicles and breaking tv equipments, our DCP gave us orders to cane the miscreants. The lathi charge was as normal as it would have been in any other similar instance. During the lathi charge we ensured that the media people went away and the lawyers went into the court building. Some lawyers who were in the ground were chased away.

“When the lathi charge began the ire of the lawyers shifted from the media to the police. They started throwing stones at us. We noticed that some lawyers would take stones out of their pockets and hurl at us. We were not hurt but we continued to disperse the mob. That is when some lawyers wearing black coats started hurling stones at us from inside the court building.

“Some of them even threw some pots and other things. One of the stones thrown by a person from inside hit the DCP on the head and injured him. We were not perturbed by that too, because all this is common during any mob fury. We ensured that the lawyers inside the building and the remaining had run away from the premises. The media too had left the premises.

“Following that some senior judges arrived at the court premises and tried to pacify the lawyers and install peace, but all that was to no avail. Then we thought that things were actually under control. We received orders to move out of the court premises. Half our men went to Mysore Bank Circle and the rest went to KR Circle.

“Everything looked fine.

“Then we started getting reports that some policemen were trapped inside the court building. That some constables who had gone inside the court to perform court duties like producing the accused, executing court directions, were being brutally beaten up by lawyers and their supporters.

“It was then some rumours started spreading that some policemen were killed inside the court building. This was when it was reported in some channels that police men were killed and some lawyers had gouged out the eyes of some cops inside the building.

“We were already tired and frustrated.

“The public sentiment as projected by the media after our inaction during the January 17th strike by lawyers had played on our minds. Some of us were starving and morose. Mostly disappointed by our helplessness. We were getting news from our friends that the tv channels reported about grievous injuries suffered by policemen and the inhuman treatment of cops by the lawyers.

“Some policemen were extremely enraged and started expressing their desire to go and free their colleagues.

“Some even started saying that since they went soft on the lawyers on the 17th of January, it had emboldened them.

“Some of the policemen decided it was time to deal with the lawyers.

“Just then we heard over the wireless that there was fire and smoke in the court premises. The news spread and the policemen started speaking that perhaps the court was on fire. The rage of the policemen knew no bound.

“It looked like the police were becoming an uncontrollable mob, and before we knew what was happening and before any senior officer could give any orders, the police from both places where they had come to rest started rushing towards the court building.

“The policemen saw that some police vehicles parked near the police outpost near the court building were on fire. Then it all began. The police indeed behaved in a mob like manner. They burnt vehicles, beat lawyers, anyone and everyone they saw, threw stones at the people who were visible inside the building and made a serious attempt to enter the building.

“The KSRP guys know only to beat and to disperse mobs. They are not into social skills. The civilian policemen too are a harangued lot. We, some officers,  tried to stop the policemen from burning vehicles, but it was all out of control. It looked like the policemen were so furious they wanted to go into the building and free those constables who were reported to be trapped and injured. They urged to go inside. Some of us stood at the entrances and stopped them.

“They were so provoked that we knew that if they were allowed inside they would lose their mind.

“They would beat the lawyers and cause serious injuries. There could be a stampede.

“We had to stop and we stopped. We knew that though the police rage was limited to beating and burning vehicles, if some of us had not stopped them certainly atleast a dozon lawyers would have been killed.

“You must know that nobody was killed. No lawyer was killed. No police man was killed. No life threatening injuries. The injuries were not that different from what one would see in any police baton charge. Yes, vehicles were damaged and burnt but compared to any other communal clash or mob fury the loss was fractional.

“Who is at fault? We don’t think the lawyers were at fault. Look at the way the media reported the lawyers strike on 17th of January. Yes, the lawyers overdid it but they need not have been portrayed as villains, as goons and thugs. How would it be for a decent lawyer if someone pointed out the report and sneered at him. How would a lawyer face his family and children. How would the lawyers’ children face their friends and classmates with such reports?

“We could understand their anger. So the anger was seething. They were waiting for an opportunity to get back at the media. They just got it in the City court premises on the 2nd of March. Not all lawyers were involved in the mischief. And not all miscreants were lawyers. It happened and was now it is over.

“What could you say about the police? We were not directly involved in the scuffle. In fact, though many people critcized the police for inaction on the 17th of January, we feel that the police did the right thing. If we dispersed the lawyers by force on that day they would have stayed away from courts and protested.

“Then when the public were inconvenienced they would have blamed us. Some would have even told us that we should have allowed them to strike as long as it was non violent. They would have accused us of taking away the rights of citizens and particularly the workers of law.

“It is difficult to be police. There is so much frustration. The lawyers put cases against the police and the media. The media have papers and tv channels. The police have nothing. They are not protected. We act and it is called excess force and if we do not act it is called irresponsible inaction.

“We cannot expect the politicians to defend us. They are looking at the numbers always and we don’t really matter to them. If we are two they come to us and if the others become four they go to them. It is easy for them to take action against the police because we won’t protest.

“Then the media, the media was doing its job. We too know what competition exists in the media. We understand why the young reporters are so aggressive. It is natural each reporter or cameraman wants to be the first to get an image or news. They are free to go anywhere unless restricted by law.

“We did not give any special protection to the media. In fact most of them stayed where we asked them to stay. We do know that some media men counter provoked the lawyers who were provoking them. None of the media guys were seriously injured.

“The reports in some TV channels were irresponsible but then we too are human beings we too get provoked, we too have rage and we too can behave excessively. But tell us where was the excess. Have you ever heard anytime before about the policemen burning vehicles? Why did it happen here? What was the reason? Why doesn’t someone understand it? Why should we have anything against lawyers? Why should ordinary constables have anything against lawyers?

“On looking back we feel it was wrong to produce Reddy in the court that day, when there was undeniable information that the lawyers were not going to tolerate the presence of media in and around the courts. We had positioned ourselves on the three sides of the building but it was too sensitive a situation.

“It was an unfortunate incident. It happened and now it has to be forgotten with precautions that it should not happen again. There is no use over analyzing it. Listening to the things the lawyers are saying in the courts while filing PILs makes our blood boil. I am sure some policemen would lose their cool again.

“We have had enough. We maybe police but we are human beings too. We too have feelings. Let us bury all ill will and make things better for the future. We accept that there were mistakes by the police but there mistakes by others too. We cannot have so much bitterness. It is time to sort this out.

“Let me tell you something, and let me make it clear, and you can even write this. If some action like punitive or disciplinary action is taken against us things will not be fine. We know that we are used and misused at will by our superiors and the powers above us. We will refuse to control any mob or any violence.

“We will just apply for leave and sit at home. You see what will happen if the government is unfair to the police. We have had enough. We will not take it lying down this time. There is anger among the police and everyone is quiet and waiting. I am not speaking for all the police but I know what the general feeling is.

“We just hope that some better sense prevails upon all parties and this is settled in a sensible way.”

There may be some mismatch in the order of the sequences narrated by the officer, but this is what he said. I am no judge so I leave it for those who can take up this case to a better judgment.

Yes, better sense must prevail.

Also read: Why were journalists targetted in Bangalore?

If this can happen so close to the Vidhana Soudha…?