news Wednesday, April 08, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | April 8, 2015 | 5.22 pm IST A day after the a special task force of the Andhra Pradesh police shot dead 20 people claiming that they fired at alleged red sandalwood smugglers in self-defence, many questions about the police’s claims remain unanswered. Twenty wood cutters, who the police claim are smugglers, were shot and killed in the Seshachalam forests a few kilometres from Tirupati in Chittoor  district. After the encounter, it was revealed that 12 of those shot were daily wage labourers hailing from Tamil Nadu. The state police have said that this is the biggest operation it has carried out since a joint operation between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka resulted in the take-down of sandalwood brigand, Veerappan. However, human rights activists, elected representatives and  politicians have alleged that the facts of the case suggest that the  deaths were staged and that what the police say transpired in the  forests was highly suspicious. Police claim that they fired in self  defence after they were attacked by the “smugglers” with axes, rods  and stones. Here are some of the circumstances which according to activists and  politicians, raise suspicions about the veracity of the police story. 1. The grouping of the bodies: The police claim that they stumbled  upon a group of wood cutters numbering between 100-200 people in the  forests and retaliated when attacked with axes, rods and stones. In  the firing, a scramble ensued, which resulted in the killing of 20 people while the others escaped.  The bodies were found in two clearings located within one kilometre of  each other. Visiting the spot of the alleged encounter reveals a  terrain that affords enough place to take shelter if being fired  upon. The dry deciduous forests of Seshachalam are made up of small  trees, thick thorny shrubs and rocks which can be tough to negotiate,  but the undulating terrain also includes clearings such as the two  where the bodies were found. On Wednesday, the bodies were neatly arranged in two groupings in the clearings, however, there was nothing but plastic litter, dried blood and stench in the area to suggest that anything happened the previous day. No police personnel were to be seen, but papers under stones were left behind to mark the spots where the bodies had been found. 2. Bullet wounds: Activists claim that the bodies have both entry  wounds and exit wounds suggesting that the wood cutters were fired  upon from close range. They insist that if the firing was done from a  distance, as the case should be in an encounter, the bullets would be  lodged in the body. This however, is an unverified claim. 3. Clothing of the victims: The woodcutters were mostly dressed in  shorts and vests. While some were found only wearing only wearing underwear, their clothes were found next to them.  The forests however, are filled with bushes where thorns can be around 2 inches long and are quite tough to negotiate without appropriate clothing. 4. Recovery of weapons: The weapons recovered by the police include  some sickles and rods which according to one politician, were raw blades  without any handles. 5. Logs: Several politicians and activists have said that the logs  found near the bodies were marked with paint, suggesting that they had been seized much earlier. According to claims, the logs in storage had been transported from a godown to the encounter site and scattered next to the bodies. Read- 'Where is the rule that police have to shoot on legs?': AP govt, police respond to 'fake encounter' allegations

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