The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has condemned the “massacre” of 20 wood cutters/labourers in Seshachalam forest area by the Special Task Force in Andhra Pradesh early on Tuesday and demanded a CBI probe into the incident.
“What makes the killings unjustified is the reason that the police armed with automatic weapons were allegedly attacked by wood cutters with stones, sticks and sickles. Even the police do not say that the wood cutters attacked them with fire arms,” PUCL national general secretary V. Suresh said.
In such a scenario, the shooting down of so many people was illegal and indicated an excessive use of force with the clear intention of causing large number of casualties.
Permission to open fire
Quoting a report published in The Hindu, dated April 3, 2015, Dr. Suresh said the DIG of STF Kanta Rao had sought permission from the State government to shoot or open fire on red sanders smugglers as an “effective move to curb wood smuggling” and that he was awaiting the “nod from the State government for implementing the order which would involve no proceedings such as filing a case and prosecution.”
“That the massacre took place within a few days of this news report makes the entire encounter incident sinisterand also supports the view that the Andhra Pradesh government had given permission to the STF officials to shoot to kill…if true, such a policy nod from the government, and effectuating such a directive by the police is unconstitutional, against the rule of law and the entire killings amounting to cold blooded murder,” he said.
He sought a a FIR against the police and forest personnel on charges of murder.
Those killed were poor tribal labourers from Tamil Nadu who were lured into the trade by a well organised gang of labour contractors.
“The key mafia leaders who are making huge profits from the trade are rarely arrested as they are able to buy protection from the bureaucracy, forest officials, police and politicians,” Dr. Suresh added.