Chittoor District Collector Siddharth Jain on Tuesday ordered a magisterial inquiry into the death of 20 red sander smugglers, who were killed in an encounter with the Redsanders Anti-Smuggling Taskforce (RSASTF), 10 km off Srivari Mettu point at the foot of Seshachalam Hills.
The District Revenue Officer was instructed to go into the details and proceed with the inquiry. Twenty woodcutters were allegedly killed when they tried to attack the Redsanders Anti-Smuggling Taskforce personnel in the forest with axes and sticks besides hurling stones at them. The incident led to injuries to six armed police personnel, who were rushed to SVIMS Hospital at Tirupati and their condition was said to be out of danger.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (RSASTF) M. Kantha Rao told the media persons that the the special task force personnel entered the forests with full reinforcements late on Saturday night. "We had information that over 150 coolies from Tamil Nadu entered the forests guided by the smugglers. In the early hours of Tuesday, both sides clashed at two locations – Cheekatikona and Eethagunta.
"Our force was compelled to open fire as a mode of self-defence," the official said. The clash which continued for an hour, resulted in the detection of about 20 bodies at the two spots adjoining each other. Blood trails in bushes and rocks showed that some from among the coolies and smugglers had fled into the thickets in various directions. There might be many injured, he said. Red sander logs, which the slain coolies were carrying, when the encounter took place, were seen strewn all over.
Inspector General (Rayalaseema) Balakrishna, Chittoor SP Ghattamaneni Srinivas, Divisional Forest officer (Tirupati wildlife) G. Srinivasulu and Circle Police personnel from all the vulnerable areas rushed to the spot.
About 300 police personnel from Tirupati, Chittoor and Madanapalle divisions were deployed at the vulnerable routes along Kalyani Dam, Bhakarapeta and Yerravaripalem locations at the foot of the western side of Tirumala Hills with porous exit and entry points used by the coolies and smugglers.
Vehicular checking was intensified at all border check posts in the district, particularly at Naraharipeta integrated check post, Puttur and Nagari.
According to a senior police official, a team of TN police were expected to reach Tirupati to take stock of the situation. All the coolies killed in the encounter were from Tiruvannamalai and Salem districts of Tamil Nadu. Two notorious smugglers had allegedly led the coolies into the forests.
The bodies of the deceased coolies would be shifted to SVRR Hospital at Tirupati for autopsy in the evening. A huge cache of axes, matches and ropes were recovered from the spot.
Meanwhile, Director-General of Police, J.V. Ramudu met Chief Minister N.Chandrababu Naidu and briefed him on the incident who stated that he is distressed to learn that many of the persons who were shot dead were reportedly from TN.