Chittoor: A rights group said on Wednesday it has traced a “survivor” from a group of loggers shot dead by Andhra Pradesh police in an incident dubbed as a “massacre” of wood-cutters from neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
On Tuesday, Andhra Pradesh police had claimed to have shot dead 20 illegal red sandalwood smugglers in a forest close to the temple town of Tirupati, sparking violent protests in the neighbouring state which continued on Wednesday.
Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee member Kranthi Chaitanya, in the forefront of a demand for a judicial enquiry into the encounter, said the organisation has “managed to establish contact with the survivor through relatives of the deceased who have come here (Chittoor) from Tamil Nadu.
“He is being kept at a safe place. We will produce him before the National Human Rights Commission,” he added.
The NHRC has already taken suo moto cognizance of the incident and asked for reports from the Andhra Pradesh chief secretary and police chief.
Family-members of a few of the slain “smugglers” arrived at the government mortuary in Chittoor also said the “survivor” was among of 8 wood-cutters hired by red sanders smugglers in Andhra.
The identity of the “survivor”, said to be from Arjuna Puram village in Thiruvanamalai district of Tamil Nadu, was not given.
They quoted him as saying that seven of his group were pulled out of a bus on Monday by police during a search at Nagari on the inter-state border.
“They were traveling in a bus from Thiruvanamalai to Chitoor on Monday afternoon. The bus was stopped by police and seven of the eight men were arrested. He was sitting separately and managed to slip away quietly,” said Raja Babu (38), a relative of one of those killed in the encounter.
The survivor is said to have returned to village on Tuesday morning, around the time news of the encounter broke on TV.
Media reports said that right group Amnesty International has also called for a fair probe into the incident.
Meanwhile, protests continued in Tamil Nadu with incidents of stone-pelting on buses originating in Andhra.
Police said four persons have been arrested over the attacks on buses. Several outfits organised protests in some parts of Tamil Nadu condemning the incident.
Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam had written to the Andhra government, demanding a probe into what he called a massacre of innocent Tamils.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh also called up Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu over the incident.