Exclusive by Richie Lasrado, Resident Editor, Daijiworld, Mangalore
November 5, 2003
The story looks like one lifted straightaway from a Bollywood potboiler. And the scenario is reminiscent of a Salim-Javed-scripted story of an angry young cop, say, played by the Big B, Amitabh. Remember the brave, no-nonsense police inspector in Shool, who single-handedly eliminates the corrupt gang - a role of a lifetime brilliantly played by Manoj Bajpai?
Move over, Bollywood film moguls. Who needs reel heroes when we now seem to be getting a new breed of real-life fighters of the corrupt system?
Mattannavar being led to the court
Photo: Mohamed Asad
A sub inspector of Karnataka police, with a clean record of service, was arrested in Bangalore on Monday, November 3 and has now been charged with planting bombs in the legislators' home in Bangalore. The motivation? You guessed it right. A crusade against corruption.
The story of 26-year-old Girish Loknath Mattannavar, a sub inspector from Dharwar, who was undergoing revolver shooting training in Bangalore, is not only baffling to many, but awe-inspiring as well to a good number of people. It is not the intention here to glorify the methods that he used, but it is simply hard not to sympathize with the cause he espoused, backed by self-righteous but covertly justified indignation.
Bangalore city police commissioner S Mariswamy, while briefing the mediapersons on the episode, perhaps found it difficult to hide his implicit sympathy for the person. He called him a "misguided person" who had no motive of exploding the devices.
Before anyone passes a judgement over him, it is only fair on him to go through his bio-data and also get an idea as to how he has been through the mill:
His father Lokesh is a clerk in a college. His elder brother Malatesh is an artiste with Sahara. Girish has had a brilliant academic career. After completing MSc in Biology, with specialization in Genetics, he passed the sub inspectors' selection test just over two years ago with merit, standing 5th in the state. Those who stood below his grade have been posted in plum positions elsewhere in the state. He has won medals in shooting. Aiming higher in his career, he had even cleared the KAS prelims recently, but joined the state police.
He started his career at Yedrami police station in Jevargi taluk of Gulbarga district. While on probation, being an intrepid and upright person, he took on corrupt ministers and officials. Besides, once he had a tiff with the followers of a state minister hailing from the same area, who is quite influential in the cabinet.
An incident that took place three months ago had hurt Girish so much. A road accident that took place within his station limits left four persons almost dying in agony. With a congenital burning desire to help those in distress, he was getting ready to rush to the spot and help. At that very jucture, thanks to the handiwork of some vested interests in the state police headquarters, he received a lightning transfer order with strict instructions to report at Narona police station the same day. Thoroughly disappointed about not being able to help the needy and with much reluctance, he took over charge at the new post.
Soon Girish came to learn the intricacies of the system. One had to bribe to earn a gold medal, again bribe to have it recorded in the service register, pay more to bribe to get a transfer and even more and more bribe to retain oneself in the present place. All this embittered him no end. He also had an opportunity to get a first-hand glimpse of corruption in the Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC), revenue and public works departments etc.
Deeply disgusted with this, Girish decided to face the corrupt and fight them. One a fine day, while on duty, he happened to seize six explosive devices from some miscreants. However, instead of reporting and recording the case, he kept them in his personal custody for future use. That was perhaps his undoing.
A few days ago, Girish landed in Bangalore for a four-day training in revolver shooting in preparation for a national-level shooting competition. He stayed at the junior police officers' mess. He did not fail to bring the bombs with him and managed to plant them in the legislators' home (LH) near Vidhan Soudha.
Saturday afternoon, the city police control room in Bangalore received a call saying that bombs have been planted in LH. The police traced the call to an STD booth near the corporation offices. Girish fumbled on one point there. He happened to leave his helmet behind in the booth.
The police had, in the meantime, had arrived on that spot to gather information about the caller who had left a little earlier. When Girish came to collect his helmet, the booth-owner had the presence of mind to note down the number of the motorcycle. An otherwise law-abiding citizen, Girish had fumbled in buying the vehicle also. It had passed hands of seven owners without any registered transfer of records. The original owner was traced and the investigation trickled down to the latest unregistered owner.
Girish was interrogated on Tuesday and he is reported to have said that he had been a victim of political interference ever since he joined service in 2000. He also said that some ministers, police officers and certain contractors had victimized him, forcing him to make a statement against corruption in a telling and dramatic way.
While at Gulbarga, his probation had been extended and he faced frequent transfers at the hands of politicians. During interrogation, he came out with a few startling, but damning disclosures that some senior police officers always wanted liquor bottles and the juniors were forced to be 'suppliers'.
He further said, "Some contractors' lobby is ruling the roost in districts and policeman have lost respect. Policemen like me could never work due to constant interference." Being disillusioned with the corrupt system, he said, he intended to make a public statement by planting explosive devices in key places. His next target was to be the office of the Karnataka Public Service Commission near MS Building, where he faced harassment while he had applied for Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS).
Although chief minister Krishna expressed his unhappiness over the planting of bombs to the police commissioner, the rest of the politicians are perhaps too dumb-founded to react. Are they now worried about the shape of things to come? Will the public anger over corruption collectively take a toll?
There are overt signs of sympathy everywhere. When Girish was produced in a city court on Nrupatunga Road in Bangalore on Tuesday, advocates and members of the public gathered in large numbers to hail him with slogans like "Living Bhagat Singh" and "The Son of the Soil". He deposed in the court that he had no intention to harm anyone or damage public property. It was only intended to make a public statement against corruption. Many lawyers have offered to fight his case but he said he would take the services of a lawyer of his own choice.
It should serve as a warning signal to our corrupt politicians. Girish is believed to have written a note in advance that if he ever were to be caught, he should be produced in a court as early as possible, so that he could expose the corrupt. While being arrested, he had in his possession autobiographies of freedom-fighters like Netaji Subhaschandra Bose, Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad. President Abdul Kalam's book on atomic science has fascinated him. He considers only one current leader as non-corrupt and clean - Adbul Kalam.
Girish, it is said, had once loved a girl and wanted to marry her. He was so possessive about her that he would get enraged if she spoke to any other man. Fearing he would be too selfish in married life, he, subsequently, altogether gave up the idea of getting married!
Without running the risk of defending the action of the angry young cop, it can be safely said that the incident is only an index to people's anger. The nation's mood has reached a breaking point. There has not been a whimper of concern shown by the people regarding the placing of the explosives in the legislators' home or the possible damage that would have occurred if the bombs had detonated. It is this factor that should worry our politicians more and not the question of hazards to their own security at their official residence.
At the same time, there is another point to be noted. What if Girish had completed the shooting training and then executed his plans? Would he have done a "Shool" on his "pet" aversions - the politicians?
Faced with a system known for corruption and harassment, and having had to serve such superiors who had no inclination nor ability to stand by him in his moments of crisis, what option was Girish left with? Was he justified in planting the bombs? What do the politicians feel about it?
Maybe we could ask George Fernandes, the hero of the Baroda Dynamite Case during the Emergency years of 1975-77, now in charge of defending our country, the Tehelka case notwithstanding. Given his principles, George should certainly support Girish in his distress.