Police repression surrounds dedication of People’s Inquest Report on Tuticorin Massacre

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: July 23, 2018
Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director of People’s Watch India, traveled to Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) in Tamil Nadu for the dedication of the People’s Inquest into the police firings at Thoothukudi on May 22, in which more than ten people were killed. The report was dedicated to the families of the deceased and injured. Tiphagne, one of the convening members of the Inquest, in a first-person account, outlined the extent of police repression that continues against the people of the area and human rights defenders helping them.

Tiphagne wrote, on July 22, "After all the cancellations of venue due to police pressure and the 'illegal' questions asked by the SHO of SIPCOT Police station for a private hall meeting, this morning at 11 AM we the organisers after a meeting with all the leaders of the political parties in the district and after conversations with the IG South at Madurai, decided that it was time to call a spade a spade and hence changed the venue to our own private venue and successfully conducted the event". However, Tiphagne explained the extent of police pressure surrounding the event, saying "police terror" was created by the SP Thoothukudi "and the district administration through its revenue staff". Tiphagne said police were "threatening families not to attend the meeting". He wrote that the roads leading tot he city and the venue were "blocked with barricades," and that the people traveling on the roads were forced to explain where they were going.

In spite of police pressure, Tiphagne wrote that former Supreme Court Justice Gopala Gowda was in attendance, along with other prominent citizens, including the Archbishop of Madurai, the Bishop of Thoothukudi, as well as members from political parties such as the DMK, CPM, TMMK, and Congress, among others. Amnesty International India and other parties and movements were also present, Tiphagne wrote. Despite the "police terror," more than 500 people attended the event, he noted. Also present were several families of those who were killed.

Tiphagne noted that one "highlight of the event" was Justice Gowda being videographed as he entered the road near the venue, even as he was traveling in an official protocol vehicle with an official police escort. Tiphagne wrote that Inspector of Police Paulraj of Koilpatti who was on duty was unable to explain why a former Supreme Court judge was being videographed when attending a private function, saying that the Thoothukudi South SHO also could not explain who had given orders for the videographing. Tiphage wrote that no additional SPs or DSPs were present with the local SHOs "to carry on this illegality," concluding, "This speaks of the politicisation and criminalization of the police and duly exposed the so called peace that the District SP claims has returned to Thoothukudi.".

Tiphagne also took note of the fact that with 243 FIRs being registered thus far, the Thoothukudi SP, Murali Lamba, "who had been addressed complaints from all the families of the deceased almost a month ago asking that separate FIRs be registered and duly investigated, had the audacity to ensure that his SHOs issued summons to all the complainants to appear before them on the 21st July in an attempt to prevent them from attending this event."

More details regarding the People’s Inquest’s report on the Tuticorin massacre can be found here.