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PUCL Bulletin, April 2006

Armed gangs target human rights activists

-- By S Jeevan Kumar; K Balagopal

Letter to Home Minister, Government of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad

! September 2005

Sub: Private killer gangs operating in the State – inaction of the police – regarding

This is in continuation of the discussion we had with you yesterday.
We have complained many times in the past about this matter, but as the occasion has arisen once again with the murder of teacher Kanakachari by a killer gang describing itself as Narsa Cobras in Mahbubnagar district, we are constrained to make the complaint once again.

For the last one decade the State has been hearing of and seeing killer gangs describing themselves by various names such as Green Tigers, Tirumala Tigers, Kranti Sena, etc. Now we are hearing of Narsa Cobras and Kakatiya Cobras. Threats are publicly being issued by these outfits, mainly to persons working civil rights organisations or various mass organisations alleged by these outfits to be close to the naxalites. That these are not idle pranksters is attested to by the fact that a number of murders have been owned up by these outfits saying that they have committed the murders.
Green Tigers claimed to have killed Sri T. Purushotham of A.P.C.L.C (in the year 2000) and Azam Ali (in the year 2001), also of A.P.C.L.C. Someone calling himself Singamalai of Tirumala tigers claimed to have kidnapped and tortured Dr G. Laxman of A.P.C.L.C in the year 2004.

The Kranti Sena claimed to have killed a number of rural supporters of the Peoples War in the 1990s.One person claiming the name of Haribhushan used to repeatedly threaten Dr Burra Ramulu and other office-bearers of HRF at Warangal. Now, we hear of something called Narsa Cobras who have proclaimed the killing of Kanakachari, teacher and democratic activist of Mahbubnagar district. Apart from killing the above-named persons, these outfits have repeatedly been issuing public statements threatening to kill a long list of activists of various mass organisations.

Though this has been going on for more than a decade now, the Government’s response has been a deafening silence. Who are these faceless gangs? How can the Government of any civilised country turn a blind eye to the presence of self-proclaimed killer groups in the midst of society? How is it that the Government has not a word to say about them? In the case of the naxalites, the police do a thorough investigation and have in their pPossession all the personal details of the leaders and the cadre of the naxalite groups. A hunt goes on for them day and night. Many are arrested and some are killed.

But how is it that by contrast there is no whisper from the Government or the police about these gangs? It is as if they do not read the papers and have never seen the claims these outfits make to the authorship of crimes of violence, and the threats they hold out to activists.

Would it be unfair to conclude from this that the Government is not unhappy to have these vigilante gangs around? Perhaps because what the Government cannot directly do these anonymous killer gangs can, and the government, if challenged, can pretend to be busily investigating the matter. In all the crimes of violence listed above, some investigation has been done, some individuals have been charge sheeted, and tried and acquitted by the Courts.

But there is not a word about the gangs themselves. What has the investigation revealed about the Green Tigers, the Tirumala Tigers, the Kranthi Sena, the men called Singamalai and Haribhushan? And what investigation has been taken up about Narsa Cobras and Kakatiya Cobras? As Haribhushan was foolish enough to issue threats even during the ‘peace period’ of 2004-05 when the Government could not ignore such complaints, he was identified and arrested. He turned out to be an ex-police constable by name Javed. But he had no personal grievance against the HRF whose office-bearers he used to threaten. He was somebody else’s tool. Who set him up? Was his criminal activity unknown to the higher-ups of the Warangal police? As for the rest of these gangs, the silence of the government continues.

It is generally believed, and we too think this is true, that these killer gangs are composed of former naxalites who have taken to a life of crime, and that the police are knowingly turning a blind eye to their activity. Perhaps the police are enabling their activity too. Nayeemuddin, Jadala Nagaraju, Tirupati Balaiah are three known persons who operate such gangs. There were two more, Sammi Reddy and Kathula Sammaiah, but they are dead. The links of a senior police officer with Kathula Sammaiah were widely published in the press at the time of his death. Yet there has been no response from the Government.

We hope you realise that this is a matter of the credibility of the Government as much as the safety and security of the people. The Government should publicise the investigation done in the matter of these gangs till now, and tell the people what the police have found about these gangs. It should also tell the people why the police have failed to contain their activity till now, though they are operating in public and indulging in extortion, threats and homicide in broad daylight. Unless this information is placed before the public, and unless the police have some credible reason for not being able to contain these gangs, the public will be constrained to conclude that its suspicions are well-founded.

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014