Chennai Police Commissioner S George on Friday rejected allegations of officers using excessive force to disperse pro-jallikattu protestors during their agitation. In an interview with The Hindu, he said the police had used “great restraint” and corroborated Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam’s claim that the predominantly peaceful protest was infiltrated by “anti-national and anti-social” elements that spread rumours of police violence.
“Over 142 police personnel were injured [during the clashes]. Some of them were dragged and lynched by mobs. There was an attempt to set fire to a police station with women police constables inside,” the commissioner told The Hindu. He further alleged that the incited crowds had started attacking the police with sticks and stones, and that “minimum force” was used to disperse the crowds.
Moreover, George gave his assurance that the police department’s cyber cell would investigate the authenticity of videos that showed officers pelting stones and setting fire to property. “If found genuine, the individuals will be identified, and legal and disciplinary action will be taken,” the commissioner told The Hindu.
Meanwhile, the Opposition Dravida Munnetra Khazagam staged a walkout from the Assembly on Friday, demanding that the Centre form a commission of inquiry headed by a sitting high court judge to probe the allegations of violence, IANS reported. Senior police officer V Balakrishnan told NDTV that the police had erred in not monitoring social media developments. “One lesson for us is to track social media, particularly messages going viral, and take cognisance,” Balakrishnan said.
According to a fact-finding team, villagers had alleged that security personnel had beaten them up and repeatedly referred to them as “terrorists”. Policewomen had allegedly set fire to the fish market using some “inflammable powder-like substance”, their report said. The Chennai police commissioner had earlier said that the videos showing police violence could have been morphed, Mint reported.
On Friday, the Tamil Nadu chief minister had said there were photographs of some protestors carrying terrorist Osama bin Laden’s name and picture during the demonstrations. Opposition leader MK Stalin had sought an explanation from Panneerselvam for the alleged police action on protestors. Panneerselvam, too, had said that security personnel had used “minimum force” to control the mob, defending the police action saying a section of protestors wanted to prolong the demonstrations till Republic Day.
Chennai’s Marina Beach was a centre for the agitation demanding the withdrawal of the ban on the bull-taming sport. Bowing to public pressure, the central and state governments had passed a Bill on January 23, revoking the ban on holding jallikattu.