Police officials remained mum in the face of revelations that call data records of the 20 woodcutters killed in an alleged encounter with the red sanders task force last month clearly showed that they had been arrested a day prior to their death.
Human rights activists on the other hand said stand vindicated on their stance that this was a massacre rather than a gunfight.
The call data records of the mobile phones carried by the 20 woodcutters from Tamil Nadu not only contradicted claims made by the task force but also raised doubts about the veracity of the testimonials and documents submitted to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which is probing the Seshachalam case.
Attempts made by this newspaper to contact task force officials for clarification on the issue bore no fruit while forest officials claimed to be busy chasing away elephants that had entered human habitations near Tirupati. “We are not aware of the issues raised as we are preoccupied in our assignments deep in the forest,” a senior forest official told The Hindu over telephone. Meanwhile, rights activists said the revelations confirm what they have been saying. “We have always maintained that it was a fake encounter and that the workers were brought to the spot and killed. The forensic report, call data records, SIT report, etc. all prove our stand,” said K. Kranthi Chaitanya, State executive member of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC).
Mr. Chaitanya has filed an affidavit in the High Court objecting to the composition of the SIT, pointing out that some of the members were known to have participated in fake encounters in the past.
Mr. Chaitanya said he feared the government may wash of its hands of the matter and make the members of the task force the scapegoats in the case. Asserting that all encounters are State-sponsored killings, he demanded that the conspirators at the top should be brought to book.