Six Muslim men were killed by police bullets after a minor quarrel over the food bill at a roadside stall escalated into rioting in the north Maharashtra town on January 6. All the dead had injuries in the upper half of their bodies.
The video clips (see links below) show policemen ignoring people their bullets had injured. One clip shows a constable taking a self-loading rifle from his senior officer and aiming to shoot above the waist. He went through with the shot.
Witnesses alleged the shooting began without warning, and that all shots were above the waist. “A constable fired three shots, one of which hit Imran Ali below his collar bone, leading to his death,” said a person who was present at the scene. The Indian Express could not independently verify whether the bullet that killed Imran Ali was fired by the policeman in question.
The Maharashtra Police manual lays down a strict protocol for opening fire to disperse a mob. “If the police are going to have to resort to firing there has to be a clear and distinct warning that firing will be effective. Here too, the rule is to use minimal force. So firing must aim low and at the most threatening part of the crowd with a view not to cause fatalities but to disperse the crowd. As soon as the crowd show signs of breaking up, the firing must stop,” say the police’s rules on crowd dispersal.
When contacted, Director General of Police Sanjeev Dayal said he had not seen these clips; however, an inquiry into the incident was ongoing.
“We need to see under what circumstances and situation the police were in at the time of firing. As per rules, if the police and rioters are at the same level then one needs to fire low. But if the other side is on a higher plane, then the situation changes. However, I would not like to comment on the incident as I have not seen the video,” Dayal said.
Residents of Dhule alleged no guidelines were followed. “There was no warning before the police fired,” said a person who was in the crowd in Machhi Bazar on January 6.
A clip shows policemen walking calmly past a man felled by their bullets, ignoring pleas for help from local people. As the policemen move on, more gunshots are heard.