RAYAGADA: A group of seven tourists, including three women, was assaulted by cattle smugglers near Kutruguda village in Rayagada district on Friday evening. One of the tourists, B Venketeswaran Kannan (35), sustained critical head injuries in the attack. Kannan of Hyderabad, who lodged an FIR in Chandili police station about the assault, said they had come to Rayagada to visit tourist places.
On their way, they found some people herding more than 500 cows on a road. Some of them were caning the cows that were unable to walk. As animal-lovers, they opposed the caning of cows which led to a heated argument between them and the smugglers. Subsequently, some of the smugglers attacked the tourists with lathis. Kannan sustained multiple injuries.
He alleged that his wife Chandrani was molested when she tried to protest. One of the tourists, 54-year-old Natasha, tried to contact the police but there was no response. Kannan has been admitted to Kolnara Community Health Centre. On Saturday, other tourists met Collector Guha Punam Tapas Kumar seeking her intervention in the incident. Punam assured them of looking into the incident and directed a high level committee to inquire into cattle smuggling.
She also directed the police to arrest the attackers. ASP Patitapaban Choudhury said police will examine the mobile video footage which was recorded by the tourists during the attack to identify the accused. Cattle smuggling has been rampant in many areas of the district. Smugglers transport cattle from rural pockets of Rayagada to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh almost every day.
Last year, an animal welfare activist, Tirtha Kumar Sahu in Rayagada district, was arrested for protesting smuggling of cows to West Bengal, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Sahu, a volunteer of Gau Gyan Foundation, had filed more than 180 cases in the High Court against the civil and police administration in 2015. This incident had forced Union Minister Maneka Gandhi to seek intervention of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in the case.