We are only enforcing existing rules more strictly: SP Annamalai6 min read
In the wake of the Manipal police clampdown, TMJ caught up with the new Superintendent of Police, Udupi K. Annamalai.
Annamalai, known to be a strict disciplinarian, took over as SP of Udupi on January 1. He has implemented sweeping changes in the district, especially in the student populated town of Manipal, to restrict illegal activities taking place in the region. Here is what he had to say about recent developments in Manipal and his plans for the future.
What are the changes you have implemented in Manipal?
We are not inventing new rules. We are only enforcing existing rules more strictly. Bars and hotels were supposed to close at 11:30 pm, except bars that have a tourism license who can operate up to 12 am.
Also, there are 21,000 students in Manipal. They have habits of playing loud music in the middle of the night, bike racing, drag racing and so on. All these disturb the local people living here. They are also tax-payers, why should they suffer? Freedom comes at a cost. Freedom doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want.
What happens if a hotel or a bar stays open beyond 11:30?
We forcibly shut it down. We have night patrol jeeps that go around Manipal and if any bar does not shut down within the specified time, we will make sure it shuts down. We can also take the step of writing to the government to cancel their license.
And what happens to a student if he’s found outside on the road late in the night?
Students have to identify themselves if they are caught by the police in the middle of the night. If the student is coming back from a movie, they can show the movie ticket as proof. A student has no business being out at 2 am in the night. Under suspicious circumstances, we can even book people roaming outside under section 96 of the Karnataka Police Act. But the police will ask the student to identify himself and if he has a valid reason, we will definitely let him go.
Can you define “suspicious circumstances”?
There are 20,000 odd students in Manipal. How do the police know that someone is roaming at night for a valid reason? A lot of illegal activities like drugs, prostitution happen at night and we want to put a stop to that.
But Article 19(D) of the Indian Constitution allows a citizen free movement between the territories of India at any time. Don’t you think it is unconstitutional to impose such regulations?
We are not restricting anyone’s movement. Students are free to move any time. We are asking students to identify themselves. There is a misconceived notion of freedom among the students of Manipal and that needs to change.
What do you have to say about allegations of police brutality coming from students of Manipal? We have heard several accounts of students being beaten by lathis at night.
They are baseless. There have been no orders to be strict with students. Police officers will ask students to identify themselves. When a police officer asks a question, students are bloody well bound to give an answer.
Last week, a policeman supposedly threw a lathi on a KMC student loitering outside Crumbs at 11:40 in the night. How do you plan to control your police force in the future?
If any policeman has used lathi on students, I will conduct an internal inquiry and make sure that it does not happen. Likewise, if any student wants to report any incident of that sort, he or she can come directly to me.
Also, allegations like these spread on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Students cannot abuse the policemen on Facebook or on their blogs. They are free to hold an opinion but if they are abusing online, then we are planning to file an FIR and book them. It might even lead to jail term for the concerned student. Nobody has any right to abuse us.
A lot of the students’ apartments are being raided these days. What is the protocol for these raids?
We do not need the permission of the owner to raid an apartment. We’ve written a letter to all apartment owners asking what kind of violations they are seeing in their apartments. If there is some organized crime like prostitution or substance abuse happening in an apartment, obviously we will be booking the apartment owners for it. The moment you rent your premises to somebody, it is your duty to make sure there is nothing illegal happening there.
How do you plan to tackle this issue of substance abuse in Manipal?
There are two sides to it. The supply side and the demand side. The supply side, we the police have to act and stop the supply of drugs in Manipal. We are working on it now.
But all the research done on substance abuse has shown that the best way to fight it is by trying to stop the demand side of it. You can look at the history of USA and Colombia. Even the World Health Organisation has recognized this. Drugs can be effectively curtailed when demand is stopped.
Students think drugs are cool. The other day we caught a student in connection with substance abuse and when asked why he does it, he said Steve Jobs has written in his book that he took drugs. This notion has to change.
Also, a lot of foreigners and wealthy people makes Manipal a hub for trade of LSD. That is why from all over India – from Goa, Hyderabad, the drug syndicates trade LSD in Manipal.
Have you made an arrest in connection with drugs in Manipal?
We have raided apartments. As I said, we have found students indulging in substance abuse. One student in KMC has been studying there for 12 years. We will be keeping a close eye on students who overstay their welcome here. We have arrested a group of 5 people. I cannot give any more details regarding that currently.
Can you elaborate on the prostitution racket you were talking about earlier?
We have made an arrest regarding the prostitution case as well. Again, the concerned people are in court so I cannot reveal the full details. You will hear about it soon. We have arrested a pimp also, a middle man, in connection with the case.
You need to work with the University to enforce most of the changes you are aiming for. How has Manipal University responded to recent changes?
We are working with the full backing of Manipal University. Students have to respect the rules of the University and its campus. We have asked the security guards under Manipal University to be more alert and impose University rules strictly.
The number of students involved in illegal activities is small compared to the total number of students in Manipal but the changes in rules affects everybody. This could lead to resistance from students of Manipal. What do you have to say about that?
It is true. If you consider a population, the number of individuals involved in illegal activities will not be more than 1%. Now, in Manipal, where there are 26,000 students, the same thing will apply but how do you catch that 1%? It is like finding a needle in a haystack and that is why stricter enforcement is happening.
What other changes can we expect?
Complaint boxes will soon come up at certain student populated parts of Manipal. Any student can use the box to report illegal activities to the police anonymously. An online portal will also appear on the Manipal University website for the same purpose.
Sub-edited by Nadia Lewis