Updated: What is the legality of Md. Mukkaram's shooting?

Okay we know Mohammed Mukkaram was reckless (as is expected of most normal youngsters his age) and he paid with his life for his mis-adventure. The media has faithfully reported this, but has failed to inform us about the legality of his killing. Were the sentries at the army officer’s house within their rights to use lethal force? At best, this CNN-IBN report is not a very professionally produced one. It is not the expected role of the journalist to frame the issue within a bias of deviant and errant behaviour and then normalise the killing. In the times of terror and the media’s sudden romanticism of the army, the CNN-IBN report presents predictable sound bites that condemns Mukkaram and literally states “he deserved it”. There is not a single voice of dissent — bar that of the family. I am not taking away the seriousness of the situation. Surely the guards at the officer’s house must have been edgy themselves. Wouldn’t that have been the result of the media’s incessant coverage of terrorism? Watch video:

If you can’t view the video here, please follow link.

A more balanced reporting of the event by Nirmala Ravindran of India Today (link). India Today points out that both guards and policemen searched for the boy. It would appear then, that the cops could have intervened and told the army guards that he was only wanted for a traffic offence. (“Did ‘war on terror’ claim B’lore biker?” India Today, 30 Dec 2008, Nirmala Ravindran, Link)

The Hindu reports that :

While the sentries asked him to surrender, Pasha jumped from the roof and started running towards the compound wall. The police said that the sentries opened six rounds of fire, two in the air, from a Military Service Rifle 5.45 mm, and one of the bullets pierced Pasha’s abdomen. (“Intruder into Sub-Area chief’s official quarters shot dead “, The Hindu, Dec 29, 2008, Link

The Indian Express decided to go with the headline “Every Saturday, he flirted with danger”. This frames the entire situation as if Mukkaram asked for it and seeks to bias the minds of readers (“Every Saturday he flirted with danger” Indian Express, 30 Dec 2008, Johnson T A, Link). It is like arguing that everybody who is killed on Indian roads asks for it because the country has a high rate of traffic deaths. Even if we concede that Mukkaram was in the wrong place in the wrong time, the following questions should be asked:

a) whether the soldiers were in their legal right to shoot.
b) does the army have a security protocol for intruders and did the soldiers follow them

7 thoughts on “Updated: What is the legality of Md. Mukkaram's shooting?

  1. I’m glad at least someone is asking this question. In fact though the Indian media long ago gave up asking the right questions on police violence. It is now routine, for instance, to see media reports about someone being “detained” on such and such date and then “formally arrested” later. What this means is that the police illegally abducted them earlier but are only showing them as arrested from the latter date – a license to torture. Yet the police are so brazen, and the media so complicit in their atrocities, that I have never heard of a single reporter asking how the police can ‘detain’ someone without arresting them. The same is true of “encounters”, as is well known.

  2. why are you giving a communal colour to the incident? what if a terrorist is involved and the life of Brigadier is at danger. the army had no choice except to kill the intruder. there would have been no comments at all had the boy was a hindu or someone else. the threatening calls being received by police and army in this regard shows the mental attitude of muslims in india

  3. not a word of reprimand to the parents of the boy who was killed for allowing him to do bike ride with friends in the mid-night. here muslim parents were secular and moderate? no muslim law come, (unlike wearing jeans pant) for this illegal act and action for escaping police etc

  4. @vasanth madhav: This is a media research blog and it concerns itself with how the media reports issues and what are considered good journalistic practices. Here the journalism was not up to what are considered good practices — that is asking all the important questions.

    This question I have asked is one of law. An individual being out of the house in the late hours (as long as he is not a minor) is not an illegal act. I think we should be careful while discussing the law. Common sense does not apply to law.

  5. Dear Vasanth. At no point has the religion of the individual been brought in. If the police and the army are receiving threatening calls, there is a electronic system in place to track them down and a legal system in place for prosecution.

  6. Thanks for bringing that up. I think media work is patchy at best. Thanks to low or no training at the workplace, excessive work pressures, newsroom ideologies, and source access (which plays a big part in reporting stories about the law and the state), journalists are unable to not raise standards of reporting and writing..

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