The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to Andhra Pradesh government and police seeking explanation over the killing of 20 Red Sanders smugglers in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. The alleged red sanders smugglers were killed by a joint team of special police and forest official in the Seshachalam forests of Chittoor district.
The NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of the reports that police opened fire as the smugglers attacked them with stones, axes and knives. NHRC member Justice D. Murugesan observed that loss of 20 lives clearly shows that there have been serious human rights violations in this case.
“A Magisterial probe has been ordered into the encounter”.
Incidentally, while 20 smugglers were surrounded and gunned down, not a single person escaped with injury. The rights activists believe that it was a brutal and deliberate killing, which was carried out not to leave anyone alive. Otherwise, such as mass killing would not take place in self-defence. The Tamil Nadu government has also protested against the alleged encounter.
The forests in Chittoor have witnessed clashes between red sander smugglers and police in the past too. In May 2014, police killed 3 smugglers in Chittoor district. Over 3,000 smugglers were arrested and 2,025 tonnes of red sanders were seized in 2013.
But on Tuesday, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) alleged in Chennai that the killings by the Andhra Pradesh Police was a massacre, and said the police personnel must be tried for murder. “It is a massacre… planned murder by the Andhra Pradesh Police. They should be tried for murder,” S. Balamurugan, general secretary of the PUCL Tamil Nadu unit, told IANS.
He urged the Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh governments to take act fast so that around 100 people remaining in the Andhra forests were saved. Balamurugan said that landless tribals from Tamil Nadu are lured by smugglers to cut the precious trees. The labourers got paid around Rs.300.
“They are not aware of the risks. The labourers think that cutting trees is a petty crime,” he said. “Earlier too, several people who had gone the forests to cut trees in Andhra Pradesh have vanished without any trace.” (With Inputs from IANS)