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NHRC orders probe into killing of 20 men


The order comes after three witnesses made statements to the Commission, with protection being orderded for them and their families.

India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has ordered an investigation into the killing of 20 people in southern India on 7 April following a joint operation by police and forest officials earlier this month, UCA News reported.

The NHRC order comes after two of three witnesses made statements to the Commission in Delhi. It also ordered protection for the three witnesses and their families after being told that their lives were at risk.

UCA News reported that the 20 men killed in the Seshachalam forest area were suspected to be smuggling red sanders, a rare and expensive wood.

The state government claims that the alleged smugglers attacked police and forest officials with stones and sickles, and that police fired in self defence.

However, media reports said the men were daily wage labourers and not smugglers.

Sekar, one of the witnesses, told the NHRC that he and his neighbour, Mahendran, along with two others, left their village in Tiruvannamalai district to go to work for a construction company.

On their way to work their bus was stopped and the other three were taken off by force by a middle-aged man, he said.

After returning home, Sekar later learned that his companions had been killed by the authorities.

Balachandran, another witness, said his father and seven other men were taken off a bus as they were making their way to look for work in Pondicherry. He had missed the bus.

He told the NHRC that he later learned his father and the seven others were among the 20 killed.

The third witness Illangovan, also a daily labourer, could not travel to Delhi to give his statement. The NHRC sent someone to him to record the statement.

"The three men survived the killings due to sheer providence and luck, or their corpses would have been among those lying in the Seshachalam forest," Henry Tiphagne of People's Watch said.

The rights group filed the complaint to the NHRC.

Tiphagne said he believed there were more witnesses to the alleged extra-judicial killings who were afraid to speak out for fear of their lives.

Date: 14 April 2015

Source: UCA News