Condemn Targetting of Democratic Rights Activists’ Team inquiring into Seshachalam Killings

Condemn Targetting of Democratic Rights Activists’ Team inquiring into Seshachalam Killings

 Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) strongly condemns the slapping
of cases against activists of a team of several civil liberties and
democratic rights organisations from across the country who conducted a
fact-finding into the recent killings of 20 red sanders “smugglers” in
Chittoor district. Members of CDRO (Committee of Democratic Rights) and
other human rights groups had visited the two ‘encounter’ sites on 10th
April. When the team tried to speak to the forest officials to get their
version of events they were threatened with dire consequences. Subsequently
several team members were booked by forest officials yesterday, 11th April,
for trespassing. Entering into a reserved forest area without authorisation
is an offence under Sec 20 of the Andhra Pradesh Forest Act, 1957. Other
charges may also have been applied. That this is a targetted, selective,
and blatant act of harassment is all too obvious as media teams have been
freely visiting the sites since 7th April itself.
Significantly, those booked include Mr Chiluka Chandrasekhar- advocate and
General Secretary, Civil Liberties Committee (CLC -erstwhile APCLC) – who
filed a PIL into the killings. It was on this basis that the AP High Court
issued directives including registration of the case as unnatural deaths,
observing the SC guidelines into encounter killings, preserving the bodies
and a post mortem by a team of forensic experts.

In a Press Conference held in Tirupati on 11th April the team had released
an interim report of their investigation. The team particularly highlighted
the cold-blooded killings of 20 persons which are being passed off in the
police version as ‘random’ deaths which occurred in ‘self-defence’ when
attacked with stones and axes by over 100 red sanders “smugglers”,
resulting in the deaths of 20 of the coolies. The rights’ team when they
visited the two sites found no other bullet marks, or blood spots except
where the bodies fell, as should have happened in a random firing. The
bodies were found in close proximity to each other rather than scattered
over a large area. Moreover neither of the sites had no stones that the
coolies could have hurled. The team questioned as to what happened to the
rest of the coolies at least some of whom must have been injured in the
“random”, and allegedly untargetted firing.

In the light of the above, the registering of a case against the activists
is obviously an obstructionist move intended to pressurise and prevent
rights groups from actively pursuing the matter both in and outside the
court. The Court clearly believes that the incident merits further inquiry.
An independent fact-finding by a civil rights team is a civil society
initiative in furtherance of the same. The registering of cases against the
activists seems highly motivated and hints that a cover-up operation seems
to have been already set in motion.

PUDR demands that:

*1. An independent inquiry in which the AP police has no role as they are
the accused.*
*2. The concerned policemen be booked under Sec. 302.*
*3. The charges against the 12 team members be dropped immediately*

Megha Bahl, Sharmila Purkayastha
12th April 2015

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