Stany Bela
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru

Mangaluru, May 7: A few days ago, May 2 to be precise, a 'Mangaluru Chalo' protest was held at Nehru Maidan here to protest against alleged police atrocities and particularly to demand justice for Ahmed Qureshi, an accused in a murder-attempt case who was also alleged tortured by police. What raised eyebrows was the moment when a person with a criminal track record was brought to centre stage for about 10 minutes even as his lawyer was giving a speech. The organizers of the protest and the speakers claimed Mohammed Shihab was an innocent victim of police brutality in the Karthik Raj murder case, and sympathised with him. 

The speakers at the programme claimed that police had tried to fix Mohammad Shihab from Manjeshwar in the Karthik Raj murder case. They said Shihab was innocent and that he had not involved in any criminal activity so far. They alleged that police had kept him in their custody without proof and tortured him for up to ten days. Demanding justice for Shihab, they also accused the police of violating human rights.

To recall, Karthik Raj was murdered in Asaigoli last year. After several months, during which protests were held demanding arrest of culprits, the police finally arrested the victim Karthik's sister and two men for killing him. The murder which had gained political and communal colour over the months ended up as a case of sibling rivalry.

As per police records, Shihab Manjeshwar is a notorious and habitual offender. He is the main accused in four cases including robbery, theft and murder-attempt registered in various police stations in Dakshina Kannada.

Case 1: According to police records, on November 19, 2016, Shihab had allegedly barged into a the house of Victor Lobo in Kuthar under Ullal police limits, on the pretext of searching for a missing girl, even though the issue was not related to him. He is said to have illegally entered the house with 15 others. A case was registered against him in Ullal police station. After his arrest, he managed to get a bail in this case.

Case 2: A month later, on December 19, early morning at 2 am, Shihab and his companions Suhail, Mustafa and Khaleel barged into 'White Shell', office of an under-construction building at Arkula. Hearing the noise, a worker at the construction site, identified as Shivnath Sahani who was sleeping in the building, woke up and saw some people trying to enter the office. When he started to scream, Shihab hit him on his head with a metal rod. Hearing the commotion, Shivanath's co-workers woke up and came to his rescue, but they too were attacked by the gang. Shihab and his gang then allegedly took away mobile phones and Rs 2,000 from the office. Police arrested Shihab in this case and at the time of interrogation, another similar robbery committed by him also came to light.

Case 3: On December 4, 2016, Shihab and three of his accomplices allegedly entered the house at Campco quarters at Padil and tried to kill the house owner Bharath Alva with lethal weapons. Bharath Alva managed to escape from the attack by running over to a neighbour's house. Shihab and his gang followed him but gave up after he entered the neighbour's compound. After a few minutes Bharath came back his house, and found that the assailants had stolen gold ornaments, cash, driving licence, vehicle RC book and ATM card. Shihab was arrested and police recovered the stolen items.

Case 4: Two months after the above incident, Shihab was granted bail. But his anti-social activities continued. On March 21 this year, at around 5:30 am at Kallarakodi under Konaje police station limits, Shihab, while riding a bike, saw night patrolling police. Fearing that the police would catch him, he accelerated the bike and tried to escape. But the police chased him and succeding in nabbing him. During interrogation, the police learnt that the bike Shihab was riding was stolen by him. The police registered a case of bike theft and took Shihab into custody.

Karthik Raj Murder and Arrest of Shihab

Speaking to daijiworld, a police officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that police investigated the Karthik Raj murder case from all angles as per standard procedure of investigation. From clues obtained from the crime spot, police understood that the murder committed not for robbery but was planned. To ensure that there were no loopholes, the police police took time and collected clues from all quarters, the official said.

"At the same time, Shihab was arrested for bike theft but we never connected his arrest with Karthik murder case. When Shihab was produced in the court, he did not tell the magistrate anything about police harassment. The same day, he was produced in court in other three cases also and in none of his statements did he make any mention about harassment or torture," he said.

Suspension of Konaje SI Srikala

The suspension of sub-inspector Srikala and head constable Rajesh of Konaje police station was not related to Karthik Raj murder case, as alleged, and it is purely based on assault on a Dalit.

As per the complaint filed by Rukmayya, a Dalit, Srikala and Rajesh booked a case under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (COTPA) Act on April 6 against him for selling beedis and brought him to the police station the same day, where he was allegedly assaulted and abused.

The complaint was registered against the two cops on April 7 under the provisions of SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Assistant commissioner of police (south) Shruthi N S carried out a preliminary inquiry and found that the two police personnel were guilty of dereliction of duty and abuse of power. Based on her report, SI Srikala and head constable Rajesh were suspended.

Criminals Getting Applause in Public Gathering Not Acceptable: Police Commissioner

Asked about allegations of police atrocity on Shihab, Mangaluru city police commissioner M Chandra Sekhar said, "Shihab is a habitual offender, a criminal. He has a gang of criminals. Criminals getting applause and special attention in a public gathering is not acceptable. It conveys a totally wrong message to the entire society. Due to such felicitations, criminals become stronger and feel safe. When somebody shares the dais with notorious criminals, unemployed youths start to imitate the same.

"Police arrested Shihab in bike theft case and he did not complain of harassment by police at any stage of the investigation. It is a wonder that people are connecting his name with Karthik Raj investigation. If leaders of a community who have major role to play in society support criminals, it is equal to misguiding the people.

"If anyone is supporting criminal Shihab in the name of human rights, automatically the question arises, what about the human rights of innocent Shivnath and Victor who were attacked by Shihab? So people who lead the society should stop backing criminals. Praising and felicitating criminals leads to begetting of more and more criminals in society. This is not a good sign for Mangaluru, which has been recognised as future Smart City," the police commissioner said.

Mafia Inciting Protests?

As per police information, sand mafia, drug cartel and real estate mafia are involved in the various protests against the police department. Some protests have been happening only through the sponsorship of mafia elements, who are reportedly inciting people against the police. They are misguiding the people and leading them to go against sincere and strict police officers, say officials, and the recent protest in front of the Konaje police station is said to be an example of this. The protesters demanded departmental action against the SI Ashok for allegedly torturing Shihab and indulging in nepotism. Police say the allegations are baseless. "Right from the start, we suspected the involvement of Karthik Raj's sister. But keeping in mind the opposition from women's rights groups, we started the investigation secretly. We finally found all the witnesses and evidences, after which we arrested the culprits," a police official said.

The police noticed that the local sand mafia was actively involved in this protest with the motive of taking revenge on SI Ashok. Ashok has good reputation in the department and his action against the sand mafia is hailed by people in general.

"Without the support and coopeation of the society at large, the police cannot tackle crime efficiently. If criminals are protected by society or community, automatically police will get demoralised. In cases of murder, riots, ect, presenting one-sided view is never healthy. Criminals should be punished and should not get any importance from society. When society stands with police it is easy to maintain law and order. For Mangaluru it is highly necessary," said the police officer.

Other Side of the Story

Former mayor Ashraf, who was at the forefront of organising the 'Mangaluru Chalo' protest, said that Shihab was given a seat on the dais only based on the alleged atrocity in Karthik Raj murder case and not his criminal record.

"The organisers gave Shihab a seat on the dais only based on Karthik Raj issue. We did not go into his past. Police arrested Shihab from his house and tried to fix him in the Karthik Raj case. Police wanted to put the case on a Muslim's head and so that the real culprits could escape. He was brutally beaten by the police. They had a clear picture about who committed the murder and why. Shihab was arrested and forced to accept the crime, but he did not," he alleged.

"It has become a habit with the police to take Muslims into custody whenever a crime happens. We organised 'Mangaluru Chalo' to protest this kind of injustice," he added.

"Shihab's presence on the dais was meant to be symbolic. Many of our youths have faced such harassment only because of they belong to the Muslim community," he said.

When pointed out that police had denied the harassment charges and no such allegations were made in the court either, Ashraf said, "Police have guts to create such stories. Because of fear, nobody wants to talk about police harassment in front of magistrates. Here we are not talking about Shihab's other cases. I am saying it again, in Karthik Raj case Shihab was innocent."

Lawyer Dinesh Ulaipady who is representing Shihab in the court, and who was also present at the 'Mangaluru Chalo' protest, told daijiworld that Shihab was innocent. "Shihab is involved in one criminal case registered in Ullal police station, but all the rest of the cases are fabricated by the police. In Karthik Raj case, police arrested him twice, once from the court premises and another time from his house in Manjeshwar. The arrest from Manjeshwar was reported in the local papers in Kasargod. During the arrest, police assaulted Shihab's father and he had to be admitted to hospital. After arresting him from Manjeshwer, police kept Shihab in a guest house in Mangaluru for ten days. They forced him to admit guilt in the Karthik Raj murder. When all efforts went in vain, they fixed him in the bike robbery case," he alleged.

"After Shihab's arrest from court premises, police took him to Pandeshwar police station and tortured him cruelly. There also he refused to accept involvement in Karthik's murder, after which the police fixed him in the Campco quarters robbery case. In 'Mangaluru Chalo' programme, I tried to expose the police autocracy targetted at a certain community. I have lots of examples of such cases. The victims all are innocents belonging to poor families.

"It is clear that Karthik Raj was not murdered by Shihab. But his arrest in this case and torture is pure violation of human rights and rights of citizens of the Republic of India," Ulaipady said.