The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that the police personnel who participated in the alleged encounters on the Warangal-Nalgonda border in Telangana and the Seshachalam forest near Tirupati in Chittoor district of AP resulting in the death of 25 persons today be booked under IPC 302 (murder) and other appropriate sections and criminally prosecuted. The criminal investigation into both the cases must be handed over to the CBI. HRF believes that five undertrial prisoners who were unarmed, in handcuffs and under heavy escort were shot dead by the police while enroute Hyderabad for a court hearing. Going by preliminary reports, we also think the Seshachalam deaths were not the result of the STF resorting to the firing in the face of a serious threat to them from red-sanders smugglers but because the police shot to kill without sufficient threat. We recall that last year the STF shot dead 11 persons (5 in Kadapa district and 6 in Chittoor district) in several fake encounters in the Seshachalam forest. In all those cases they took the extra-judicial option even though in most of them they could have easily apprehended those who were cutting down the red-sanders. HRF would be soon conducting a comprehensive fact-finding into the Seshachalam killings. The police simply cannot wash their hands off after declaring that they were under attack and they had to fire in self-defence. Whether there was a justifiable plea of self-defence is a matter to be decided by the courts and not the police. The law will not have it any other way.
(HRF general secretary, AP and TS)
(HRF president, AP and TS)