On 7 April, the Andhra Pradesh Special Task Force in Chittoor killed twenty men from Tamil Nadu in an alleged encounter in the Seshachalam forest. Today, two men came forward as witnesses and claimed that the STF halted the bus they were in and arrested twelve men a few hours before the encounter. The STF’s claim was that the men, whom they called red sanders or red sandalwood smugglers, had attacked them and that they had retaliated.
Three days ago, about fifty people huddled in a small room in the Chandragiri Police station in Chittoor. The group included the wives and children of the labourers who were killed; representatives from various human rights organisations; advocates from the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a Tamil Nadu state party; and the local police. Munniyamal, the wife of one of the men who was killed, was lodging a complaint against the police for murder under section 302 for culpable homicide. The family members of the other men killed had come from the Thiruvannamalai and Dharmapuri districts in Tamil Nadu in the jeeps arranged by the PMK, accompanying Munniyamal.
Once the complaint was formally lodged, journalists from the Telugu and Tamil press had arranged microphones on a table for the complainants to speak. The media savvy cadre of the PMK’s legal wing took over the press, spoke eloquently about the “atrocities of the police,” while the wives of the deceased spoke softly in cracking voices.