by Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association
JTSA condemns the killing of over 20 woodcutters in the Seshachalam forests and the 5 under-trials in Nalagonda (Telangana). In the first case, reports are already emerging that 7 of those killed, were taken in police custody a day before the encounter. This, along with other details such as bullet injuries on the chest, head and face, contradict the police version of the events. The scale of this violence is unprecedented and suggests how entrenched the culture of impunity is in the state police.
The photographic and video evidence emerging from the police van in which five undertrials – alleged terrorists – were killed by the police party, which was escorting them from Warangal jail to a court in Hyderabad strongly suggests this to be a case of cold-blooded execution in custody. The arms on the dead bodies of these five men – with their hands handcuffed to the seats of the police vehicle – appear to be clearly planted in order to ‘dress’ this up as an exchange of fire. Is it a mere coincidence that the judgment in the case of these five men was due to be pronounced soon?
All efforts must be made to ensure that the post mortem reports and other evidence such as ballistics and the clothes worn by the deceased in both the cases are secured and not tampered with. Time-bound high level judicial probes must be conducted into both the killings. Simultaneously, cases of unnatural death must be filed immediately and special public prosecutors appointed in consultation with the families to prosecute the policemen who participated in the massacres.
The media must follow these cases right through to their logical end in the fixing of accountability and not be satisfied with merely reporting the events as they have taken place.
However, the recent judgment on Hashimpura reveals the problems germane to doing justice to victims of encounters and custodial violence, that are near rampant. While the judgment does not deny the incident of 42 Muslim men being killed in cold blood by the PAC, there were no convictions because of the extremely weak nature of the evidence put forward by the prosecution. There is a need for a clear mechanism whereby either the prosecution or investigating agencies can themselves be held accountable. In heinous crimes such as cold-blooded massacres, how can there be no means to ensure that the investigating agencies and prosecution do their duty in fixing responsibility? Unless such a procedure or mechanism is evolved, justice will always elude the mechanical and cynical application of laws.