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K’taka: FIRs filed against 14 Protesters condemning Israel’s attack on Palestine; attendees complain of manhandling and assault by cops

Civil society delegation demands withdrawal of the FIRs; submits memorandum to the DCP of East Bengaluru. DCP considers their demand and agrees to look into the matter.


Ayesha Ayath Aslam and Fathimah Usman

On Sunday, Bengaluru police arrested more than 20 civilians who were campaigning to raise awareness regarding Israel’s attack on Palestinians and filed charges against 14 of them.

Reports indicate that the detainees were subjected to physical abuse, including a woman who claimed she was manhandled by male officers in the absence of female police personnel.

However, the accused have maintained that there was no violation of any law or order, and the program was in line with constitutional provisions.

In response, a civil society delegation met with the Deputy Commissioner of Police (East Bengaluru) on Thursday to demand an inquiry into the alleged violence against the protesters and the withdrawal of the FIRs.

A group of concerned citizens, including students, activists, and professors, aimed to undertake an awareness campaign titled ‘Bengaluru with Gaza’ on June 2nd. As they held onto informational material regarding the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, what happened after was something they hadn’t seen coming.

Speaking to The Observer Post, Prof. P Baruah, Assistant Professor at NLSIU Bangalore, said, “We were having tea when suddenly the police came; some in uniform and some in civilian dress. They started snatching the posters from our hands, manhandling us, and detained us.”

Around 5 pm, even before they could start disseminating the placards, the police arrived and allegedly dragged the citizens to their van with no explanation.

Arindam Roy, Assistant Professor at BITS Pilani, told The Observer Post, “We got to know about the demonstration through social media. Before the demonstration started, the police started to detain people who were in groups. Women were manhandled by the cops. Suddenly, cops, probably from the crime branch, who wore pink t-shirts and blue shirts, started to detain us. We asked them to show their ID, but they didn’t provide it. While they were detaining us, we started to raise ‘Free Palestine’ and ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ slogans. We didn’t have any pamphlets in our hands; they even detained a bystander who was identified as Muslim by his name.”

The police allegedly threatened to snatch the phones of those recording the incident as they grabbed and dragged the campaigners.

The accused contend that they were met with a violent police crackdown. The police allege that the detainees obstructed government servants from performing their duty, but the attendees and the civil society delegation deny this accusation.

However, the detainees claim that the police assaulted them during their transportation to Pulikeshi Nagar police station.

Baruah said, “They (police) dragged me inside the van, and a police officer in a yellow shirt grabbed my arm and scratched and twisted it.” She further explained, “There were five of them inside the van, including me and four other men. The police officer who was in civilian dress started to beat the other two detainees. I tried to stop them, but they slapped my face. They took my phone away. They forcefully made me apologize in front of the camera too.”

Roy stated, “The police pushed us into the van and started punching our faces and heads, and they also verbally abused us.”

According to sources, one of the detainees started vomiting at the police station.

“One of our comrades, due to heavy punches to the face, felt dizzy. We asked them to take us to the hospital, but they didn’t take us right away. At approximately 10:30 PM, they allowed us to leave, and we went to Victoria Hospital. We filed a medico-legal case complaint,” Roy said.

He continued, “The next morning, we learned that they filed another FIR—a non-bailable case—against four people, including me.” He said, “the police filed an FIR against us, accusing us of assaulting them.”

Initially, the police had filed an FIR (Cr 177/2024) against a few campaigners under various sections (188, 290, 291), including for allegedly violating Karnataka High Court directions (WP 5781/2021), which prohibit protests anywhere in the city except the Freedom Park.

However, the delegation said in the submitted memorandum that it was not a protest but rather an awareness program while questioning why the event was treated as a protest if there was no evidence of it being so.

The memorandum, obtained by The Observer Post, also clarified that the slogans were shouted only after the police began forcefully dragging the gathered citizens.

The primary purpose was to raise awareness about the ongoing genocide in Palestine, according to the delegation.

The delegation also highlighted that under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, an offence requires a lawfully issued order by a public servant and disobedience causing obstruction, annoyance, injury, or risk to people or safety, or inciting a riot.

However, in this case, the gathering of people at the location was a peaceful assembly of Bengaluru residents, not a protest, march, or rally.

After the detained activists were released, it was revealed on Tuesday that another FIR had been registered against some of them under non-bailable sections.

The second FIR (Cr 178/2024) was registered against four individuals under sections 506 (Criminal intimidation), 34 (Joint culpability), 504 (Intentional insult to provoke breach of peace), 332 & 353 (Assaults or uses criminal force for obstructing government servants from discharging their duty).

The delegation argued, “No citizen assaulted the police; rather, the police assaulted the citizens. We are shocked that this section has been invoked.”

Karnataka has witnessed multiple clampdowns on pro-Palestine events, with the police citing “security threats” and alleging that the protests were in violation of the order or other regulations. Concerned citizens have shed light on this “attempt to suppress dissent.”

Following a similar event in November, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah accused the police of creating “misunderstanding” and “unnecessary confusion.” He wrote a letter assuring that the government would not obstruct freedom of expression in accordance with the ideals of the Constitution.

Despite this, “the police tried to prevent an event that aimed to raise awareness about the ongoing genocide in Palestine by the Israeli forces,” observed the delegation.

Baruah, who developed a fever after the incident, said, “The police were behaving as if we were preaching hate speech, but we were simply conducting an awareness program about the ongoing genocide in Palestine by the Israeli forces.”

Whereas Roy said, “They are planning to take up the issue with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).”

The civil society delegation (People’s Union for Civil Liberties, All India Students Association,  Collective – Bengaluru,  Students for People’s Democracy, National Law School of India University  Students Union, All India Lawyers Association for Justice and advocates and activists), submitted a memorandum, and presented their demands on Thursday.

Poorna R, a Bengaluru based lawyer who is a part of the team, told The Observer Post that the DCP made no comments regarding the demand to withdraw the case. However, he has agreed for an inquiry into the violence.

Aysha Ayath Aslam is a journalist based in Manglore. She tweets at @AyeshaAyath

Fathima Usman is a journalist based in Banglore.

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