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NHRC team to probe woodcutters' killings in Andhra

NHRC team to probe woodcutters killings in Andhra

Hyderabad: The National Human Rights Commission on Thursday decided to send its team for an on-the-spot investigation into the killings of 20 woodcutters by police in Andhra Pradesh.

The NHRC took the decision after hearing submissions by the civil society and the state government during a hearing on the second day of its camp sitting here.

Police gunned down 20 woodcutters in Seshachalam forests in Chittoor district on April 7, alleging they were smuggling rare red sanders wood and attacked the police squad.

The NHRC headed by chairman K.G. Balakrishnan directed that mobile numbers of all the officials involved in the police action and medico-legal reports of the police personnel injured in the action should be submitted.

This was in addition to the orders already passed by the commission on April 13.

It had directed police to provide security to two people and their family members who had made a complaint in connection with the incident.

The full commission took strong exception to the delay in conducting a judicial inquiry.

The NHRC had already directed the government to order a magisterial inquiry into the killings, to be conducted by a judicial magistrate first class.

It had also asked the authorities to submit the names of all forest officials and police officials who were on duty and were part of the Special Task Force, and ensure that all the weapons allegedly used by the STF and the deceased people were placed in safe custody.

Andhra Pradesh Police submitted reports on the incident and the subsequent action taken by the force.

Police, in their report, explained the circumstances which led to the incident.

They claimed that the woodcutters hailing from Tamil Nadu were working for smugglers of red sanders and they attacked policemen, forcing them to open fire in self defence.

The NHRC also took up the matter relating to the killing of five undertrial prisoners by police in Telangana on April 7.

It heard the submissions of both the rights groups and the state government.

The NHRC conducted a hearing on the two incidents following allegations by the families of the victims and human rights groups that police murdered them in cold blood.

Telangana Police submitted a report about the April 7 incident near Aler in Nalgonda district.

Police said the five undertrial prisoners, who were being brought to Hyderabad from Warangal Central Jail, tried to snatch weapons from the police escort and escape from the van. They claimed that all the five were killed in an "exchange of fire".

The NHRC members wanted to know why the undertrials were handcuffed and chained in the van. A police officer replied that they were facing charges of involvement in terror activities.

The Telangana government has already ordered a probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT).

Rights groups, however, are seeking an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or by a sitting judge of the high court.

The widow of Mohammed Haneef, one of the slain undertrials, on Wednesday met the NHRC chairman. She disputed the police claim that the undertrials tried to snatch weapons, and said they were all handcuffed and chained to their seats in the police van.

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