Uproar in Tamil Nadu after Andhra Pradesh Police kill at least 20 red sanders smugglers
At least 20 red sanders smugglers were shot dead by a task force team of Tirupati Police in Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday morning in the Seshachalam forest area, on the outskirts of temple town Tirupati.
Officials said that today early morning a beat guard on patrol heard sounds of chopping trees, and whistles and whoops that smugglers use to communicate in the forests, and alerted the Tirupati Forest Division officers. Forest officials who are not allowed to carry fire arms sought the help of the Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force, specially set up to assist forest officials, and raided the areas. Based on a tip-off, combing was going on the forests since Sunday and the beat guard came across this cutting operation today morning.
“As soon as they saw police, at least 150 to 200 labourers hired by the smugglers rained stones, shot arrows and threw sticks and iron roads. They hid behind boulders and attacked. At least eight of our forest officials were injured and the Task Force opened fire in self defence and at least 20 were killed. They are all hired daily wagers from Tamil Nadu. They were camping here since yesterday evening, we believe,” Task Force DIG M Kanta Rao said.The encounter between cops and the smugglers started at 5 am and continued for about an hour. At least 150 to 200 labourers mostly from Erode and Vellore of neighbouring Tamil Nadu, and from Kurnool district of AP, supervised by smugglers were cutting the red sandalwood trees. Cops found hundreds of chopped trees at the scene of the encounter.
“As our personnel started firing the labourers ran helter skelter. Many of them escaped into the forest while some we have detained. Combing is going on,” Rao said.
In Tamil Nadu, MDMK leader Vaiko and PMK leader Ramadoss slammed the Andhra Pradesh government for the killing of 20 red sander smugglers and demanded action against the officers involved in the operation. 12 of those 20 killed are said to be from Vellore, Tiruvannamalai and Tiruvallur in Tamil Nadu. Leaders from the state have sought a Supreme Court probe in the matter.
“Officers should be tried for murder,” said Vaiko said.
On December 15, 2013, two senior forest officers were mercilessly stoned to death by a red sanders smugglers gang in the same Seshachalam forests in Chittor district. Deputy Range Officer L Sridhar and Assistant Beat Officer D Kumar died on the spot when the gang pelted stones after the two officers challenged then when they found them cutting trees in the forest. The two officers had gone on routine combing along with six other officials. Three others received injuries while three managed to escape and call for help. Forest Beat Officer K C Sekhar who was injured in the incident told Tirupati Police that the combing team came under attack and their was hail of fist-sized stones hurled at them.