The Indian Express reporter Arun Janardhanan was among the first to reach the site of the “encounter” near Tirupati on April 7, about six hours after 20 alleged red sanders smugglers were shot dead by Andhra police and forest guards. He took over 100 photographs and 10 video clips of the bodies laid out at the site and found that they raise serious questions about the police version that they were shot in “self-defence”. Here’s why
ENCOUNTER SPOT 1
Chatkatigala Kona in Seshachalam forest, Chandragiri Mandal, AP
Men killed: 9
Body No: 16
* From Vettagiripalayam in Tiruvannamalai district, Perumal is survived by his wife and three children, a boy and two girls, all below 10 years old. Perumal is said to have taken some of the victims on the trip offering them a job in Tirupati.
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Observations: Body lying on its back, head smashed, with brain spilling out; bleeding around the upper part. “The injury to the head was probably caused by a heavy stone or a blunt instrument,” said Dr P Chandra Sekharan, a former director of the Tamil Nadu Forensic Sciences Department, who examined the photographs and video clips taken by The Indian Express of 10 of the 20 bodies.
Body No: Unverified
* From Kalasamuthiram in Tiruvannamalai district, Palani, a tailor, is said to have offered work to at least 11 victims who joined him on the journey. He was survived by his wife and a three-month-old daughter.
Observations: Jeans unzipped and belt unbuckled, as in many other bodies. Injury caused by a blunt instrument on the right arm. “It looks like he tried to defend himself against an attack,” said Dr Sekharan.
Body No: 20
* From Sitheri Hills, Dharmapuri
Observations: Body lying on its back. Clad in innerwear over which are shorts and trousers. Bullet mark on left frontal region of the head. Severe injury on the back has led to severe bleeding. Bullet mark on stomach has hardly caused any bleeding. “This shows the body must have been shot after death,” said Dr Sekharan.
Body No: 18
Observations: Body lying on its back with bent legs which, Dr Sekaharan said, indicated a “death struggle”. Drag marks seen on the right side of the body smeared with blood-soaked earth. “It may have been dragged through rough terrain,” he added.
Body No: Not verified
Observations: Bleeding from an injury found on the back — “may been caused by thrusting of a bayonet or similar instrument,” said Dr Sekharan. Body wearing two trousers, neither stained with blood. Both trousers unbuckled and zipped open with the outer one not fully pulled up to the waist. Deep imprint of foot on the right side of the body near the leg.
ENCOUNTER SPOT 2
Sachinodi Bonda in Seshachalam forest, Chandragiri Mandal, AP
Men killed: 11
Body No: 11
* From Pudur, Gandhi Nagar, Tiruvannamalai
Observations: Tapering blood marks on the stomach from left to right, blood-soaked innerwear. “It is suspected that the genitals could have been severely injured or cut as the shorts worn are profusely blood-soaked in the pubic region,” said Dr Sekharan. A bullet injury below the right chest is smeared with blood. The right hand and shoulders have burn marks with flesh exposed in multiple patches.
Body No: 3
* From Vettagiripalayam, Tiruvannamalai
Observations: Fully blackened body, especially the chest and stomach region, and blistered skin peeling away. “It was clearly exposed to fire,” said Dr Sekharan. Injury on the left arm appears as if flesh had been removed successively or more than once. Blister marks are seen on the right and left arms along with deep injury marks.
Body No: 4
* From Arasantham village, Dharmapuri. His son Balachander, a survivor and a witness before National Human Rights Commission, had taken him along for the job in Tirupati based on a call from Palani. Balachander missed the bus at Tiruttani, en route to Tirupati, when he stopped to have a drink with another worker.
Observations: Bullet injury on stomach out of which the blood was oozing . “This shows the bullet injury was caused probably immediately after death or during a semi-conscious state,” said Dr Sekharan.
Body No: 5
* From Melkanavavur, Jamunamarathur, Tiruvannamalai district
Observations: Bullet entry mark on chest with no blood flow. “This shows it was shot after death,” said Dr Sekharan. A lot of blood is visible on the right and left of the body. “This major injury was probably caused by a weapon, not a firearm,” said Dr Sekharan. The entire body, especially the chest and stomach region, is blackened and skin layers on the right hand have peeled off, exposing flesh.
Body No: 6
* From Karukkampatti, Dharmapuri
Observations: Right and left feet, left hand and the right palm have blister marks. “This may have been due to acid flung on the skin or direct exposure to fire,” said Dr Sekharan. Blackened and broken skin, especially on the face, indicates the body had been exposed to fire. Burns marks on the left side of face, laceration over nose and chin, broken front teeth, burnt left earlobe and broken neck in hyper-extended position. “These suggest he had undergone torture before death,” Dr Sekharan said. Brain matter is scattered around the body. A torn red vest with an injury caused by what, Dr Sekharan said, could have been a bayonet.
What the logs show
The red sanders logs found lying next to some of the bodies at both encounter sites have white paint smears, marks of chipping from axe-like instruments, and dust and dirt covering the ends that do not look as if the logs were freshly cut.
The logs were all darkened and fresh chisel marks are visible on portions where certain markings previously existed.
“There are also chisel marks and markings to indicate they may have been seized earlier, before the encounter. There are also termite galleries visible on the wood which shows it was stored somewhere else earlier,” said Dr Sekharan.
“All three wood logs seen may have been seized previously; markings of the seizures and chiseled marks are clearly seen. Splashes of white paint or similar marks on the wood logs should be probed as they would have happened in where the logs were stored. There is no reason for such marks to be present,” he added.
One photograph shows two logs flanking body No.6. “A person running away or fighting will not fall so uniformly between two logs placed in this parallel manner,” said Dr Sekharan. There were no marks on the ground to indicate he was running or fighting.