By Twocircles.net Staff Reporter
All photos courtesy The Coastal Resource Centre
The actions of Chennai police during the protests of January 23 have devastated the lives of over 250 families in the area of Nadukuppam, a neighbourhood just off the beach in Chennai, a fact-finding team has revealed.
An all-women fact-finding team consisting of Dr. V. Vasanthi Devi, former chair State Commission on Women, Professor Anandhi Shanmugasundaram, Advocate Poongkhulali Balasubramanian, and Chandrika Radhakrishnan from Thozilalar Koodam visited Nadukuppam between 2 and 5 p.m. on 24 January and prepared the report, which can be read in full here.
Nadukuppam is a Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board tenement area where residents of Nadukuppam (originally in Marina beach) were resettled, and most of the residents are from the fishing community.
“What is clear is that after their initial hot pursuit of bleeding and terrified youngsters from the beach, the police returned at least two more times armed with stones, bottles, petrol bombs, rubber bullets, tear gas and incendiary material,” the team said in its report.
Bringing clarity to the sequence of events, the fact-finding team said it was clear that the police badly beat up the young men and women who came running into the village in the early hours with injuries, clothes in a disarray and in a state of incoherent terror.
This was followed by the police repeatedly referring to the youngsters as “theeviravadhigal” (terrorists) to justify their violent behaviour. By accusing the villagers of harbouring terrorists, they justified their violence and destruction of property.
“Policewomen were as abusive – physically and verbally – as the policemen. They have used sexist, demeaning words, entered homes, destroyed furniture, dragged
innocent men, women, and children out on the street and beaten them up in public view.”
“Policewomen set fire to the fish market using some inflammable powder-like substance. Several other vehicles and handcarts and shops were also systematically targeted. Some policewomen also looted the fish, especially the high-priced fish,” the report added.
The residents alleged that the policemen later came and tried to “pressurise residents to sign a testimony declaring that the protestors had indulged in arson and violence, and promised them compensation in return,” the team said.
“The residents refused (to do so),” it added.
The fact-finding team said the actions of the police had destroyed the livelihoods of a number of people. “Just as the fisherfolk were recovering from (Cyclone) Vardah, the police have destroyed the single most important livelihood asset of more than 250 women in Nadukuppam. This will have a devastating impact on the domestic economies of the families, and the schooling and future of their children at a time when exams are around the corner,” the report added.
The fact-finding team has made the following recommendations to ensure justice to the victims:
a) Convene a high-level independent probe to verify the findings of this report and the allegations of the residents of Nadukuppam.
b) Immediately offer an exgratia compensation to all households in Nadukuppam with an extra amount to the fisherwomen who have lost their assets in the arson attack on the fish market.
c) Enquire into the complicity of higher officials in the police department, and take appropriate action.
d) Do a detailed valuation of the lost property, damaged assets in terms of livelihood assets, household goods, houses, furniture and vehicles, and arrange for compensation by the Chennai City Police.
e) Conduct a thorough investigation and pin penal liability on police personnel that participated in the attacks of 23 January, and their seniors who ordered the attack.