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Saturday, 21 February 2015

19-year-old assaulted by cops, probe starts - Panaji,Goa

Police on Thursday began an inquiry into the alleged harassment and assault by police personnel of 19-year-old John Augustine Fernandes of Gaurawaddo, Calangute.

John was allegedly beaten up at the Calangute police station after he was picked up by police personnel from his house on Sunday afternoon for his alleged involvement in a theft case at a guesthouse. A senior police officer told TOI that John will be called on Friday for his statement to be recorded and to identify the personnel who beat him up.

At Gauravaddo, John and his mother, Telma, have moved out of the family's small, single-room accommodation and are residing with relatives. Locals said Telma, who supported the family by working as a housemaid, is scared John will be further harmed and she will be harassed, especially after her appeal to the IGP to take action against the policemen who brutalized her son.

John's father, Alexandre, a differently-abled, is alone at the house since Wednesday and speaks to the constant stream of John's friends and well-wishers. He doesn't know where his wife and son are, and doesn't know why his child was beaten up by the police.

TOI spoke to John and Telma telephonically on Thursday. They requested that their current location not be revealed. Recalling what happened to him, John said that around 12.30pm on Sunday he stepped out of his house to go to church and from there to Margao to participate in the Carnival parade when Calangute police turned up and "started beating me without reason". "They then arrested me without any warrant and took me to Calangute police station," he said, adding that the police allegedly removed his shirt without his permission and started beating him again.

"The beating went on for around an hour; then they started asking me if I had robbed from a guesthouse at Calangute. I said no, I pleaded with them to stop, and I requested them to check if there was any CCTV footage available at the guesthouse." John claimed that when the personnel checked the CCTV footage they realized he was not in it.

He said that he managed to contact his mother, Telma, around 2pm, "through someone who had come to the police station". Telma told TOI that when she inquired with the police at the station about her son, she was told he had been arrested in a theft case, was not allowed to meet him, and was told to come back at 5pm.

Both told TOI that before John was released at 9pm, police took an undertaking from them that the matter is closed and the police have nothing to do with it. Telma then took her son to the Candolim health centre where he was referred to the Goa Medical College (GMC) and Hospital, Bambolim. She said when her son's treatment was under way when two police personnel from the Calangute police station arrived at GMC and the doctor later told her to take her son home.

"I want action taken against the guesthouse owner who named my son in the complaint, and the police personnel involved in the case," Telma stressed to TOI.

At Gaurawaddo, the taxi operators whose stand is at the entrance of the narrow lane that leads to John's house, swear that the lad is no thief. "He is a very good dancer and would take part in dance shows and competitions to earn some money to pay for his education. He is a simple boy, we know him since his childhood, we used to see him everyday," said a taxi driver. John, an open school student, is suppose to appear for Class XII exams in March.

Another taxi driver added, "He is such a simple boy that he would dance for us whenever we asked and we would give him just chocolates."

A taxi owner who took John to a private hospital on Wednesday, told TOI, "Police are saying that he is fit; I took him to hospital on Wednesday afternoon and he was not able to even move his hand. He was in terrible pain."

A friend who had come to meet John at Gaurawaddo on Thursday evening, said the youngster was part of the group, Born to Dance, and conducted dance classes for children. "He is a very simple boy and we cannot imagine him being involved in any crime. He must have been framed," said the friend.

The police inquiry is being conducted by North Goa SP Priyanka Kashyap and the report is likely to be handed over to IGP Sunil Garg for further action.

Source: TOI,20th Feb 2015 

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