Rape finger at cops
Hyderabad, Aug. 21: Eleven tribal women have accused an Andhra Pradesh police team of raping them after holding them captive for alleged links with Maoists.
The charge is the latest in a series of allegations against the state’s anti-Naxalite forces which have been accused of killing innocent tribals after branding them rebels.
According to reports, the 21-member police party, on a combing operation in the Vakapalli forest belt in Visakhapatnam district early on Monday, raided a tribal village and took away the women, including two minors. “They were held in a deserted area and gang-raped by the policemen and let off the next day,” a television channel said.
Andhra DGP M.A. Basith dismissed the allegation as a “baseless ploy” of the Maoists to discourage the police from combing the forest areas.
“However, we will have cases booked against the accused police personnel under SC/ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act,” the state police chief added. “We will also have the incident probed by an officer of the rank of additional SP.”
The issue cropped up at this morning’s cabinet meeting. Later, chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy said the policemen will not be spared if they are found guilty.
But home minister K. Jana Reddy said he was not aware of any such incident. “If the allegations are true, I will have them looked into,” he added.
Reports said the policemen raided Vakapalli, a tribal hamlet. “They kidnapped the women after beating up the men and children on the charge of having links with Maoist cadres,” said civil liberties leader K. Balagopal.
This morning, the women, led by local legislator L. Raja Rao, filed a police complaint against the combing party.
The MLA has demanded a probe by a sitting high court judge and a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to each of the “victims”. Raja Rao also sought immediate release of two tribal youths — Suryam and Prakash — accused of killing a zilla parishad vice-chairman.
Superintendent of police Akun Sabharwal said the allegations were aimed at sullying the image of the force. “Soon after coming to know about the alleged incident, I directed a DSP to visit the village and ascertain the facts. No women came forward and deposed before the DSP,” he said.