NELLORE/TIRUPATI:The Andhra Pradesh police on Sunday arrested 61 woodcutters from Tamil Nadu and seized red sanders logs worth Rs 2 crore even as they refused to register an FIR on the task force personnel involved in the Seshachalam encounter.
Speaking to reporters, Atmakur DSP Subba Reddy said the police, acting on specific information, had conducted raids in Veligonda forest and rounded up the woodcutters while they were felling red sanders trees. The combing operations have also been intensified in areas bordering Tamil Nadu and the coastline to corner and apprehend the sanders smugglers, he explained. The development came even as the kin of at least 18 slain woodcutters from Tamil Nadu sought to lodge a complaint against the Red Sanders Anti-smuggling Special Task Force (RSASTF) at the Chandragiri police station. The bereaved families accused the task force personnel of killing their dear ones in cold blood in Seshachalam last week. However, the police refused to register an FIR and instead, merely acknowledged the complainants’ statements. Their reason: a cases has already been registered. The bereaved families arrived at the police station along with their advocates. Among them was Muniammal, widow of Sasikumar, a native of Vettagiripalayam village in Tiruvannamalai district. In her complaint, she termed the encounter ‘fake’.
“It was not an encounter death but was a well-planned crime... such an act amounts to culpable homicide, a punishable offence under Section 302 of the IPC. Therefore, I request the investigating officer to register a case against the police personnel responsible for the killing of my husband,” she said.
K Balu, her advocate, said they had approached the police after finding that the bodies were cut up. “We even saw some victims with amputated limbs. If this was an encounter, the injuries would not have been in this manner,” he said. The bodies of six woodcutters from Tiruvannamalai are still preserved at the Tiruvannamalai Government Hospital (TGH), he added.
However, the police refused to lodge an FIR stating that two cases were registered in connection with the encounter. Tirupati (West) DSP J Sreenivasulu said it would not be possible to accept the complaint as investigation was ongoing.
When contacted, Tirupati Urban SP Gopinath Jatti doubted the veracity of the statements given by the bereaved families. “They say those killed were coolies. Then how is it possible for the families to hire lawyers? There are some unknown groups behind the 12 advocates who are trying to make this issue a controversy,’’ he alleged.
The police officials also claimed that the lawyers of the 18 families were not cooperative. When the advocates approached the Chandragiri police, officials asked them to cooperate in recording the statements of the family members.
“It is not right for the lawyers to let the family members go away from the station premises without recording their statements on the issue,” said Tirupati (East) DSP R Ravi Shankar Reddy.
Chandragiri police receive complaint from Muniammal whose husband was killed in the Seshachalam encounter
Refuse to file FIR, but acknowledge her complaint (receipt no: 345)
Claim that since a case was already registered under Section 307 of the IPC (attempt to murder) against the slain woodcutters, they cannot book an FIR against the task force personnel
Advocates of bereaved family members allege victims’ bodies show signs of torture