The killing of the alleged smugglers in Chittoor forests in an encounter on Tuesday led to tensions between Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
All the 20 men killed are from Tamil Nadu. Four are from Vellore, eight from Villupuram and another eight from Thiruvannamalai.
The killings spurred attacks – stone pelting - on the Andhra RTC buses running in Tamil Nadu. The APSRTC has reportedly stopped its services in the state following the incident.
Body of a man killed in the Andhra encounter being carried into a hospital. HT Photo
Members of fringe political organisations congregated outside the Andhra Bhavan in T Nagar and held protests. They demanded justice for those killed in the police “massacre”.
Also read:Red sanders smugglers' killings: 2 encounters, 20 bodies, several unanswered questions
In a letter to his counterpart, Tamil chief minister O Pannerselvam demanded a credible and speedy enquiry into the incident and fix responsibility for human rights violations, if any.
“It is essential that action is taken against those who caused the deaths and appropriate compensation is paid to the families of the victims,” Panneerselvam said.
Vaiko, MDMK general secretary, demanded that the policemen who killed the labourers be tried for murder. He also demanded a compensation of Rs 20 lakh per person killed.
However, the Andhra government defended its police forces.
State forests minister Bojjala Goplakrishna Reddy told HT, “Our conduct in dealing with the red sanders smugglers is unquestionable.”
Sources said that the menace of red sanders smuggling in AP picked up in last 6-7 years and is attributed to the perishing forest and sanders space in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
AP director general of police J V Ramudu states the jails as swarming with offenders “who are not just wood-cutters.”
“Over 2000 people – most of them from Tamil Nadu are under our custody now. They come in such swarms that with each of our operation, we arrest 200-400 men and hire several RTC buses to transport them. With the court space not enough we had to present them before the magistrate in open ground,” Ramudu tells HT.
The Rayalaseema districts of Kadapa, Kurnool and Chittoor have red sanders growing in lakhs of acres. Chittoor district, which has a long border running along TN and Karnataka, is particularly infested with smugglers who take shelter in the Tirumala hills.