A war of words has erupted between the Government of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu over the killing of 20 people alleged to be red sandalwood smugglers. Taking this issue further are some senior advocates in Tamil Nadu who are filing a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court seeking a CBI probe into the matter.
A senior police official from Tamil Nadu told OneIndia that the entire operation was fake and amounted to murder. We have been looking into the issue and find nothing bonafide about the operation, the officer also informed.
Were the men picked up and killed?
More startling is another claim by the Tamil Nadu police which states some of them were picked up and killed in the encounter. They were not even chopping wood as was claimed by the Andhra Pradesh government.
Two persons were in fact in jail and they were brought to the Seshachalam hills and killed in the encounter, the TN officer also suspects. We are collecting material and have found that these persons who were killed hail from the border areas of Thiruvallur, Thiruvannamalai and Vellore, the official said.
We will be preparing a detailed report and submit it to both the Union Government and also the National Human Rights Commission, the officer also informed.
The Tamil Nadu government in a bid to support their claim that this was a fake encounter has already announced a compensation of Rs 3 lakh each to the families of the deceased. This is the first time that TN has taken such a stand as in the earlier case of red sandalwood smuggling the government has never interfered as compensating for a crime is not permissible [How coward red sandalwood smugglers lure the poor of Tamil Nadu]
Stage managed operation
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, two Intelligence Bureau officials of the Tamil Nadu state visited the spot. The two officers informed that there were a large number of discrepancies in the manner in which the incident was carried out.
The entire area where the encounter took place looked neat. There was no sign of a battle and the claim that the encounter was in self defence is complete wrong. An encounter spot indicates struggle or a battle, but none of that was found out there, the officer also informed.
All those involved in the so-called encounter were in perfect shape. Some of them looked as though they had self inflicted injuries. This completely counters the claim that the patrolling officials had been attacked the IB official from TN also says.
All the injury or bullet marks on the deceased persons was on the chest and forehead. This is precision shooting. Normally in an encounter when firing begins the targets tend to run and escape and in the bargain sustain injuries either on the back or other parts of the body.
However in this case the injury marks are on the forehead and chest which indicates that the shooting was precise in nature. Moreover there are few injuries on the faces of the deceased as well and this goes on to state that they were first captured and then shot at, the officer further claims.
Moreover on the bodies of at least 6 of the deceased the wounds appeared to look a day old. The TN intelligence team was at the spot within a few hours of the operation being conducted. The AP police had said that the incident occurred on Monday at 5 AM. However while inspecting the bodies at 9 AM it was found that some of the wounds were a day old.
Were the red sandalwood trees cut the same day?
The other claim made by the TN officials is that the logs that were found on the spot were not freshly cut. They appeared to be old logs and placed at the spot to make it appear as though the operation was a bonafide one.
We can distinguish between the old and newly cut logs. Looking at the spot it was evident that none of the logs were freshly cut. The AP police had claimed that the encounter occurred when they found that around 80 persons were cutting down the logs.
AP hits back
The government of Andhra Pradesh which has come out in defence of its officers says that this operation was a genuine one. We did expect the Tamil Nadu officials to speak this language since they have failed miserably in controlling the influx of its people into the forests of Tamil Nadu.
We have been repeatedly requesting the TN authorities to enhance patrolling along the border areas not to permit smugglers from entering into the Andhra Pradesh forests.
We have found in many cases where TN guards look the other way after being bribed and in the bargain facilitate the smugglers. This defence is being taken by them to protect the drawbacks in their own system an officer with the Andhra Pradesh police informed.
The AP police says that they have enough material on hand to justify the entire operation. We need to safeguard our forests and stringent action has to be taken to ensure no smuggling activities take place in the forests of Andhra Pradesh, the official also said.