The state of the 20 dead bodies and the scenes of the violence has raised serious doubts over the official version of the two encounters between Andhra Pradesh police and alleged red sanders smugglers on Tuesday morning. Although 20 alleged smugglers from Tamil Nadu were killed in the operation, none of the armed policemen or forest officials sustained injuries.
Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force DIG Kantha Rao said that the "smugglers" attacked his team with sickles, rods and axes. Asked if the attack could have been quelled without such massive fatalities, Rao said, "We gave them several warnings but they did not stop attacking us. There were over a hundred of them." Asked how many of his men were grievously injured, he said, "Nobody is seriously hurt from our side. Their superior training saved their lives."
Most of the bodies were badly decomposed leading to allegations that the encounter happened much before Tuesday as claimed by the Task Force which led the operation involving local police and forest officials. Some of the red sanders logs found next to the bodies had white paint and code numbers on them, leading Opposition leaders and human rights activists to allege that the wood was brought from a government stockyard and planted at the site.
Calling it a fake encounter, former Congress MP Chinta Mohan, demanded a judicial enquiry headed by a high court judge and said, "Some of the bodies have marks on the wrists indicating that they were tied up and shot at close range. Most of the bodies have bullet wounds at the back of the neck. Either the police are Olympic level marksmen or plain murderers who shot their victims at close range."
Body of a man killed in the Andhra encounter being carried into a hospital. HT Photo
YSR Congress MLA Bhaskar Reddy said, "Most of the bodies were found in a heap at the two sites. If there was an encounter, like the police alleged, wouldn't the men have scattered?"
Kranti Chaitanya, of the AP Civil Liberties Committee, APCLC, said, "This is not the first time such an encounter is taking place. Every time it's just poor porters from Tamil Nadu who get killed. Never has an actual smuggler been caught or killed. It's common knowledge that many politicians are involved in the smuggling of red sanders."
He said that the APCLC will petition the high court on Wednesday seeking a judicial enquiry into the incident. "Our petition will also seek directions to preserve the bodies till a judicial enquiry starts," he said and cited a 2009 order of the high court that said a murder case should automatically be registered against the police in an encounter killing.
Sources also said that several human rights and dalit organizations will be arriving in Chittoor to stage a protest and demand a judicial enquiry.