ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The People vs the Police

he People vs the PoliceA conviction in Mumbai's Ramabai Nagar police firing of 1997 leaves the larger questions unanswered.

Ten dalits died when police fired on a crowd protesting the desecration of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue at Ramabai Nagar colony in north-east Mumbai on 11 July 1997. The incident deepened the dalit community’s sense of discrimination and its disenchantment not only with the main political parties but also its own faction-ridden leadership in Maharashtra. H owever, 12 years later, on 7 May, only Manohar Kadam a subinspector of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) who ordered the firing was sentenced to life imprisonment by a special sessions court. The Mumbai High Court has granted him bail.

The then Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (SS-BJP) government had appointed the Justice S D Gundewar Commission of I nquiry to probe into the firing and also accepted the report that was submitted in December 1998. But follow-up action was not prompt. The commission dismissed the police’s “tanker theory” which claimed that the firing was inevitable as the crowd was a ttempting to set alight two oil tankers on the Eastern Express Highway. The police evidence of a three-minute long video tape allegedly shot by a resident of a building overlooking the scene and showing the crowd rushing towards the two tankers was dismis sed as doctored evidence. The Gundewar Commission r eport held Kadam responsible for “straightaway” opening fire without warning or even attempting to disperse the crowd through other means.

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