TIRUPATI: The controversy surrounding Tuesday’s encounter killing of 20 TN woodcutters by the armed task force inside the Seshachalam forest took a curious turn when officials of the forest department booked cases against representatives of various human rights organisations, who visited the encounter spots on Saturday Apart from activists of AP and Telangana, members of human rights organisations from various parts of the country arrived in Tirupati and headed to the forest carrying with them photography and videography equipment as part of their mission to gather all possible evidence from the encounter location, which comes under the Chandragiri mandal.
The group included Human Rights Association general secretary Chiluka Chandrasekhar, Ajitha from Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, TSS Mani of Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (Tamil Nadu), Raju from People Rights Protection Committee, and VS Krishna from Human Rights Forum (Telangana and AP). The intention was to collect information from the location, picturisation of evidence for submission before Courts and Human Rights Commission to support their argument in future. However, with the activists proceeding directly to the spot without informing the forest officials, the latter booked them under the Forest Act.
“On Saturday, we registered cases against 12 persons who visited the reserve forest area without taking permission and served them notices. Cases were registered as it is an offence under the AP Forest Act 1957 under Section 20,” said Tirupati wildlife Divisional Forest Officer G Srinivasulu.
When contacted, Tirupati Circle Chief Conservator of Forests M Ravi Kumar told Express that forest department officials had every right to book those entering reserve forests without permission. Cases were booked as per guidelines prescribed. If it is a reserve forest, those entering will be booked under bailable section. In case it is a sanctuary or national park, the violators will be booked under non-bailable sections, he added.
Meanwhile, terming the development as evidence to officials abusing the rule of law, Civil Liberties Committee executive committee member K Kranthi Chaitanya said they visited the encounter location along with media only for ascertaining the facts regarding the encounter. But officials booked cases against us unable to digest our fight against the encounter, he added. Describing the incident as a fake encounter, members of the group reiterated their demand for CBI enquiry.
“We have gathered the available evidence from both the encounter spots. The version of police that they were forced to open fire against the coolies proved false,’’ they claimed.
Further, they asserted that the version of police was false and demanded to book the officials involved under Section 302 of IPC, and called for a judicial enquiry by an independent investigation agency, and conduct re-postmortem on the bodies of victims.
Flaying the version of the incident given by Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, his Cabinet colleagues and the police that there was nothing wrong with police firing at the labourers, the rights activists said if it is the norm to kill those damaging forests in the name of encounters, politicians should be killed first as they were responsible for destruction of green cover in the name of promoting mining.
Distance between bodies found at the encounter spots was less than 10 feet raising serious doubts on the police theory
Blood stains seen only at the spot where bodies were lying and in no other place near the shooting spots
If the police version that they opened fire in self-protection is true, then there should have been blood that spilled out from the injured at various spots in the area
No tree at the encounter spot bore bullet marks
There are no stones at the Sachinodibanda encounter site, which goes against the police version that the woodcutters had hurled stones on the personnel