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Uproar in Tamil Nadu after police gun down 20 sandalwood ‘smugglers’ in Andhra Pradesh

India on 08 April 2015
Location : Chennai, India | Source : The Times of India; Image Source: The Times of India

NEW DELHI/CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu on Tuesday witnessed a huge uproar over the gunning down of 20 alleged red sander smugglers in Andhra Pradesh by the police there. The incident took place at two places in Seshachalam forest area of Chandragiri mandal in Chittoor between 5am and 6am. 

Twelve of the 20 people who were gunned down were from Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu claimed those 12 Tamils killed were poor labourers from the state who went to Andhra Pradesh for work. 


Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam sought a credible and speedy inquiry into the operation carried out by the "Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force" of the Andhra Pradesh police. 

In his letter to his Andhra Pradesh counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu, Panneerselvam wrote: "I am very distressed to learn ... I request you to kindly order a credible and speedy inquiry into the matter so that the facts are established and responsibility fixed for possible human rights violations. In case of any human rights violations, it is essential that action is taken against those who caused the deaths and appropriate compensation is paid to the families of the victims." 

While it was possible that these people may have been engaged in illegal activities, the occurrence of such high casualties in the operation raised concerns whether the Task Force personnel acted with adequate restraint, Panneerselvam said. 

"Even if the persons had been engaged in illicit tree cutting, efforts could have been made to apprehend them rather than take such drastic action and cause such high casualties," he said. 

Taking suo motu note of the incident, the National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to Andhra Praderh government after one of its members observed that it involved "serious violation" of human rights of the individuals and the firing cannot be justified on the ground of self-defence. 

NHRC member Justice D Murugesan, who is camping in Thiruvananthapuram in connection with the camp sitting of the commission, observed that incident involved a serious violation of human rights of the individuals and the opening of firing cannot be justified on the ground of self defence since it resulted in the loss of lives of 20 people. 

Human rights activists and a former Andhra Pradesh DGP also criticized the police action saying it was "disproportionate" to the crime. 

The DMK, BJP, PMK, Congress and CPI claimed that poor labourers from the state were among the victims and asked the Andhra Pradesh government to "pursue lawful means" to check red sanders smuggling. 


Claiming that they were innocent labourers from Tamil Nadu who were lured with higher wages to forests in neighbouring Chittoor, NDA ally, PMK chief Ramadoss said their being shot down without even an inquiry was unacceptable. 

Dismissing claims of Andhra Pradesh police that they opened fire in self-defence, he said "it was a plain lie" and demanded a probe by a sitting judge of Supreme Court besides seeking relief to those killed and action against police officials. 

DMK chief Karunanidhi, in a statement said, governments of both the states should announce relief to the families of the labourers killed in the exchange of fire. 

Andhra Pradesh Police claimed that six of its personnel were also injured in an attack by the smugglers allegedly armed with sickles, axes and countrymade weapons. They claimed that the task force and forest personnel, during a joint combing operation, spotted over 200 red sanders woodcutters involved in felling trees and they were asked to surrender. 


Red sanders is a highly-endangered species of tree also called red sandalwood and has a huge demand abroad, specially in China and Japan, and commands a good price. It is grown mainly in Seshachalam hill ranges spread across Kadapa, Chittoor and Kurnool in Rayalaseema region and parts of Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh. 

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