news Wednesday, April 08, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | April 7, 2015| 10.00 pm IST Several hours after the police claimed that 20 red sanders “smugglers”were killed in an encounter, questions are being raised about theveracity of the police’s claims from several quarters, alleging that the Seshachalam deaths were fake encounters. The Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force of the Andhra Pradesh police had said on Tuesday morning that they had fired at the 20 alleged smugglers in self defence, after the latter pelted stones at the police.  The bodies are now at the Ruia Hospital, where the post mortem will be performed. So far, no one has come forward to claim the bodies. Chandragiri MLA Bhaskar Reddy (YSRCongress) demanding a judicial inquiry by a sitting judge saying that he had visited the spot and saw no weapons there. Calling it a “stage managed” encounter, Reddy said that the people could not have initiated an assault on the police when they were not armed. DIG (Task Force) Kantha Rao said that the task force had got information about the specific area where the suspected smugglers were  likely to be, and began combing operations. On coming upon them in the forests, he said that the task force was attacked with axes, rods and  stones and that the police retaliated with fire. He said that 20 people had died and the rest, around 100 of them, had escaped. Asked if any police personnel were injured, Rao replied that none of  the police were seriously injured as their superior training had  saved their lives. This is not the first time that such deaths have occurred in the region. In 2014, at least 11 people had been killed in Chittoor andKadapa districts. According to S Balamurugan of the Tamil Nadu unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, these deaths were the result of the alienation of land from forest dwellers in Tamil Nadu, combined with a lack of alternative employment. He said that they would go to the forests in Andhra Pradesh for cutting trees as they did not know how else to make their livelihood. Numerous people from four districts in Tamil Nadu – Dharmapuri, Thiruvannamalai, Villupuram and Salem – frequently engaged in this  work. Tamil Nadu Tribal Council activist K A Gunashekar said that they had brought the situation to the notice of the Tamil Nadu government  several times, but to no avail. “Tribals are just 1 percent of Tamil Nadu’s population, so they don’t care about us,” he said, adding that  the alienation of land had badly affected the tribals." K Chaitanya of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee said that the committee would file a special leave petition with the Andhra  Pradesh High Court on Wednesday, asking for the bodies to be preserved. Saying that this was not the first time that such “encounters” had occurred, he said that they would also ask the high court to direct the police to register cases under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC and investigate the encounter.  He said that it was the Andhra Pradesh High Court which had ruled in 2009 that a case of murder should automatically be filed against thepolice who participated in an encounter. “We will ask the court why it should not be filed now,” Chaitanya said.
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