20 men, claimed to be red sanders smugglers were gunned down in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. Police maintain that the Red Sanders Anti Smuggling Task Force was patrolling the Sheshachalam hill range and found that there were some 100 wood cutters cutting down red sanders. These men, says the police, were warned and were directed to surrender themselves, however the men were armed with stones, sticks and axes began pelting stones and attacking the police officials. Although the officials did try to restrain from firing guns, they smugglers were overpowering and hence the police had to resort to shooting in which 20 men belonging to Tamil Nadu were killed.

However the story from one of the survivors Sekhar from Murugapandi village is totally different, he says that he saw the police in fact dragged seven supposed ?smugglers? from a bus near the border between the two states, just a few hours before the incident.

He, had been spared because he was seated beside a woman and the police mistook him to be her husband.

Well, the fact remains that 7 among the 20 dead men were not even among any smuggling group that the police says had confronted deep inside the forest.

Encounter ? Real or Fake

There are many questions regarding these encounter killings, especially because the show put by the police for the media is too mystifying giving rise to a number of questions regarding the credibility of the killings. Here is a list of questions one would want to be clarified of if the encounter was a real one and not staged.

  1. It is been reported that 2 men belonging to the international red sanders smugglers group were present in the vicinity where the shooting had taken place and were successfully killed. Why would people dealing internationally go into the forest with petty hired woodcutters? Were these 2 men the real reason behind staging this encounter? From where did these men suddenly emerge, and why did they have to be connected to men caught and brought from a bus?
  2. The Police say that there were 100 odd men felling trees, if so where are the other 80 men who were around? If they have fled away how did they manage without any blood loss or leaving any if their belongings behind? There seems to be no extra axes or other articles generally would have used by men who reportedly stay in forest for weeks, cut tress, accumulate them and then smuggle them across. So where is evidence of presence of other men?
  3. Were all the men hired from Tamil Nadu only, if yes, why did the Andhra Pradesh government officially deal with the Tamil Nadu government about the issue, it is clear that the men were fascinated by the higher rates of wages paid, so if that is managed by the government by providing better opportunities at home why would they need to go into the forest. If No, where are the labours from Andhra Pradesh? How did every labour from Andhra manage to escape?
  4. If the smuggling is going on in such a huge scale as alleged by the police where are the trees that the other men cut? The number of logs shown to have been cut by the police is too few in number compared to the enormous number of men accounted.
  5. Every one of the 20 men dead have been shot in the chest and forehead only, does the Andhra police have such good snipers who, during a shoot out could take aim and shoot clearly? Is it possible in such mayhem of the degree reported? There is not much blood spilled on ground accounting to 20 killings. In fact the post mortem report of these men clearly has stated that the depth till which the bullet has travelled and the effect it has created can be achieved only if it were shot from a very short range, almost point blank.
  6. Almost every man killed has very less clothing on him; this has no explanation however to who actually unclothed them?
  7. The wood that is claimed to have been seized from the smugglers is too dry to have been cut recently. It also has government stamp on it which permits cutting the wood. How did this lot of wood reach the place, if it were not cut currently, then were these logs transported from a different location? If so who transported them?
  8. The location of this encounter does not have red sanders even up to an area of around 5km around it, what were the labours doing there then?
  9. There is a clear cut indication that the big pins involved in smuggling of red sanders are identified, yet why have they not been taken into custody? Is it because they are rich and politically supported?
  10. There are only two officials who seem to have been injured in this encounter. If 80 to 100 men were pelting stones at them and attacking them with axes, will only two get hurt, and if so, do two injuries warrant a firing that killed 20 people?

All the above questions create a mystifying situation and it is hard to believe that the encounter is true one. In fact in most part of India unjustified killing of people by the armed forces and police has become a problem that has direct or indirect support from ruling political parties. Such killing came to light from the Ishrat Jahan and Sohrabuddin cases.

However, justice or punishment to the perpetuators seems to be a far call.

In this particular case there is widespread opinion that the special Task Force wanted to instill fear in the minds of smugglers of red sanders and hence have gone on to stage an encounter which will set a deep sense of fear to these people.

If the Force in fact was assuming this, they definitely have to learn more before doing such terrible mistakes. For one these people are not cutting wood to bring about loss to the country or teach a lesson to some country (which is the usual case in terrorist attacks). These are simple men working for their family?s daily bread and butter. They are doing a job for some person who is paying them. If 20 of them are killed today, 40 more would join in the very next day, because these poor men need to feed mouths back at home, they have the responsibility of running their homes.

Is Being Born Poor A Sin

The main culprit who is recruiting poor landless farmers trying to cope up with the world with nothing other than their labour and trying to take advantage of a large jobless population is still out there, enjoying every comfort money can provide him, and yet 20 lives have been wasted just to show the public that some very sincere officials are working deep inside the forest for the good of the people.

Is being poor such a great sin?

In a country where people accused of such heinous crimes of murder, rape, millions of rupees worth scams, misappropriating public money, scandals and so on have been given right to fight their case before the judiciary, poor men driven by their poverty and working for some big shot have been killed just like that.

Should you need to be holy, rich or powerful to even enjoy the basic right to be human?

Human rights are denied for people and yet we cry loud when our cows are killed.

Human rights are denied for people and yet we cry loud for stags dwelling safely in the forest.

Human rights are denied for people and yet we cry loud for Tigers

Why is human life considered so cheap, not even to the tune of animals? Is it because our population is too high?

It is now left to the government of Tamil Nadu and NHRC to ask for better probe and justice.

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