Barely a week into the investigation of Verna’s bone-chilling triple suicide, the case has already been transferred to the CBI and is now under the scanner by the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO) – Goa and the Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP).
The press note released by the two organizations suspects corruption and power have blinded the investigation, setting it on the discrimination against “disadvantaged” groups. They raise pertinent questions and highlight inconsistencies in the investigation so far, and are, therefore, calling for Suo Moto action against the same.
First, a background of the case – On the morning of Tuesday, 29th June, Halagappa Ambigera, his wife Devamma Ambigera, and his brother Gangappa Ambigera, 29, were found hanging in their rented house after 3 whole days of torture and beatings at the Verna police station.
Devamma was accused by the owners where she used to work as house help for stealing money and jewelry. This complaint is supposed to have been lodged on the 23rd, and since Saturday, 26th June, the three were made to visit the police station every day where they were mentally and physically tortured by the police.
Devamma’s brother, who had been living with them for a few days, was a witness to this and was also the first to discover the bodies. The family of the deceased refused to accept the bodies despite pressure from the police, and instead, reached out to the organizations for help.
Since then, the police have released a suicide note written by one of the members claiming “harassment by family on money-matters” is what led them to take this extreme step. NCHRO and CSJP hold this to be fabricated evidence as there is sufficient proof that all three deceased were in fact, illiterate.
In their press note, NCHRO – Goa called the inquiry “dragged” and “discriminatory”. The note also claimed that the current police investigation was running on the “anti-poor, anti-migrant worker narrative that tends to cloud effective and scientific investigations,” hoping for the CBI probe to not follow suit.
Raising questions about the evidence and inquiry done so far, the group has already highlighted the falsifiability of the supposed suicide note left behind by the deceased. As per sources of these organizations, none of the deceased were known to be literate. The police have no real evidence suggesting that the note was in fact authored by any of the victims.
Secondly, the group has demanded transparency in terms of the FIR of the robbery, filed by the complainant. They want the police to make public the copy of the FIR/Complaint letter just as they have voluntarily shared information about the so-called note found in the room of the deceased.
The group bids that the complainant be subjected to the same treatment of summons and inquiry, as was meted to the deceased. They called on the police to make known the precise figure that the allegedly stolen items add up to. The group is rallying for “equitable standards” in the investigation of the victims, the complainant, and their respective families. “If required, other agencies such as the Income Tax department should be involved in the investigation,” read the press note.
Thirdly, despite the whole incident had taken place in South Goa, the post mortem of the bodies was conducted at the Goa Medical College at Bambolim in North Goa. It is thus imperative to question why the bodies were not taken to the South Goa District Hospital for examination.
Moreover, the post mortem of the three bodies was carried out by postgraduate students and a junior medical officer and not by any senior post-graduate medical officer. This emboldens the suspicions of corruption and indiscretion in the investigation, not just on the part of the police but also on the part of the medical authorities in the handling of such a grave issue.
They have stated that this smacks of the discriminatory attitude with which the police, as well as the medical authorities, have handled a serious matter involving three unnatural deaths. This question needs to be examined separately under the authorities of the GMC and Health Department and credible answers must be forthcoming, the groups have remarked
The groups have also pointed out that the police have disseminated selective and biased information to the media which could prejudice public perceptions that defame the deceased victims from a sheer class bias. Such cases in the past have also shown that the police are often prone to discriminate against minorities and disadvantaged sections.
Here too, the police have been reported to harass the family of the deceased. This kind of unfair and arbitrary use of power and violence is what may have led to the unfortunate incident in the first place. It is possible that they are being subjected to such treatment owing to their lower class, caste, religion, or the fact that they are “outsiders” in Goa.
Justice and equality before the law are both fundamental rights of every Indian citizen. It is time this investigation was conducted with more transparency to ensure that it is free from any influence of the complainant, which may be misleading and slowing down the investigation.
The groups are for suspension of the Police Inspector in charge of the police station and the remaining officers and officials handling or dealing with the case until inquiry is complete. The groups have also demanded that it is imperative that an independent commission of inquiry seize all possible evidence including CCTV footage.
The press note also called for the State Human Rights Commission, Goa State Women’s Commission, and State Police Complaint Authority to take suo moto cognizance and conduct an inquiry. The groups are demanding the constitution of an independent time-bound commission of inquiry to inquire into the matter.