HYDERABAD — Under fire for the killing of 20 people by police in a forest in Andhra Pradesh, the state police chief Jasti Venkata Ramudu said here today that the police would have arrested the red sanders cutters if they had an opportunity to do so.
He also claimed that it was only after the police were attacked did the police open retaliatory fire which killed 20 of them in Chittoor district.
"Had there been an opportunity to arrest them, we would have definitely done that," the Andhra Pradesh police chief told reporters.
He said that in an earlier incident, red sander cutters had attacked and stoned to death two forest officials and one constable.
"Why did we not shoot at them then? They are not our enemies. How can we shoot at point blank range?" the DGP said.
He said that the police and the forest department are willing to face any inquiry.
"Inquiry has been ordered. All questions will be considered and all questions will be taken into account. Don't worry," he said.
The Centre has also sought a report from the Andhra Pradesh government about the incident.
In a communication, the Home Ministry told the state government to give a detailed report about the incident and send it as early as possible.
Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu has briefed Home Minister Rajnath Singh about the incident and the action taken by the state government in this regard.
During their telephonic conversation last night, Naidu explained to the Home Minister the circumstances leading to the killing of the 20 red sanders "smugglers" by Andhra Pradesh Police.
Twenty people were gunned down in an operation said to be against red sanders smugglers in the Seshachalam hill ranges of Chittoor yesterday even as six policemen were injured after woodcutters and smugglers attacked them with sickles, axes and country-made weapons, the police had said earlier.
The police claimed that during a joint operation, police task force and forest personnel spotted over 200 red sanders woodcutters who were asked to surrender.
However, after being attacked, the police opened fire in retaliation and "self-defence" killing 20, while scores of others fled the scene, the police said.
(With inputs from PTI)