Tamil Nadu reacted with an outburst of anger at the killing of 20 woodcutters, 12 of them Tamils from Vellore and Tiruvannamalai, in police firing for alleged smuggling of red sanders near Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. Chief Minister O Panneerselvam wrote to his Andhra Pradesh counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu while leaders from all major parties condemned the killings.
On the streets, protesters attacked seven Andhra Pradesh Transport Corporation buses in Chennai and smashed the glass panes. Security has been stepped up at many Chennai-based establishments of Andhra-origin owners, including restaurants, clubs and banks, after protesters tried to target them in separate incidents.
In his letter to Naidu, Panneerselvam called for a probe to fix responsibility for possible human rights violations. “Many of these persons are reportedly from Tiruvannamalai and Vellore districts of Tamil Nadu. While it is possible that these persons may have been engaged in illegal activities, the occurrence of such high casualties in the operation raises concerns whether the (AP) Task Force personnel acted with adequate restraint,” he wrote.
DMK chief M Karunanidhi said, “Now, at least, both governments should wake up to the situation and take remedial measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.” He said a failure on part of both governments led to the brutal killing.
Tamil Nadu Congress president E V K S. Elangovan found the police action “suspicious”. “Of late, a lot of illegal activities have been reported in the name of curbing red sanders smuggling,” he said. And state BJP president Tamilisai Soundararajan said, “Shooting anybody just like that is not acceptable.”
PMK leader S Ramadoss too described the killing as “unjustifiable”. “They were all workers from Tamil Nadu who had gone to Andhra Pradesh to work in granite quarries and fell trees. They were promised between Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000 per month. Police should have arrested them to find the kingpins instead of killing them,” he said.
MDMK chief Vaiko said, “Big smuggling sharks escape and it is the poor who have been killed.” The CPI’s D Raja said, “Nobody can approve of such police action.” And Thol Thirumavalavan, leader of the party VCK, demanded an unconditional apology from CM Naidu.
Protesters, meanwhile, demonstrated in front of several establishments with an Andhra connection, including Andhra Club, besides attacking Andhra state buses. In Cuddalore, about 400 activists were taken into custody when they tried to picket a wedding hall owned by Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam. Some activists were taken into custody for trying to picket Andhra Bank.