TIRUPATI:Combing teams involved in Tuesday’s operation against red sanders smugglers refute the allegation that the encounter was a pre-planned assault.
Sources involved in the operation told Express that the combing started two days ago. The joint team of Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force (RSASTF) and forest department has 11 men armed with guns. The team started combing in the late hours of Sunday.
On Monday, the team, while returning, suspected movement of smugglers deep inside the forest. “Footprints of some persons were spotted far away from Eethamagulagunta. After examining them, it was realised that there was a big group inside the forest and that they were carrying some huge weights,” an officer said on condition of anonymity.
After estimating the number of smugglers inside the forest, the team members split into two, with two members acting as scouts. The smugglers, on seeing the scouting team pelted them with stones. “The smugglers surrounded the scouts and tried to kill them. Our timely intervention saved them,” he said.
The second team started shooting at the smugglers at around 5 am on Tuesday. The position of the smugglers gave them advantage to hit the security personnel with stones, said another officer. “Despite several warnings, they continued to attack us. We opened fire as there was no other option left,” he said.
Meanwhile, political parties condemned the encounter, terming it a fake operation. CPI leader P Harinath Reddy said the police and forest department are trying to protect the kingpins. “All the bodies are in a circle. Will anybody stay at the same place if someone starts firing?” he asked.
DGP Makes Aerial Survey
Tirumala: Director General of Police JV Ramudu, accompanied by Central government officials, conducted an aerial survey of Seshachalam forest on Tuesday evening, sources told Express. An inquest of the bodies was completed by 5 pm and all of them were shifted to SV Governement Ruia hospital, Tirupati. Former MP Chinta Mohan, CPM leaders and NGO activists, who reached the spot, raised their voice against the government and the police on the encounter.
RTC Halts 80 Services to TN
Tirupati: With Tamil Nadu protestors attacking buses, officials of the Tirupati region of APSRTC has suspended operation of 80 bus services to Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu protestors were angry with the death of 20 workers from their state in the encounter, Tamil Nadu political parties also took strong exception to the incident. Seething with rage, they damaged about 10 buses by throwing stones at it. When contacted, APSRTC Tirupati regional deputy chief traffic manager T Chengal Reddy said that so far Tamil Nadu political activists had resorted to vandalism on 10 buses in Chennai and Vellore. “Keeping in view the present situation, we have decided to suspend the services of 80 buses operating to Chennai and Vellore from Tirupati,” he said.
The news about the encounter frightened pilgrims who trek to Tirumala via Srivari Mettu footpath. “Me and my family members were shocked to see police and media vehicles passing by,” said Manigandan, a pilgrim from Tamil Nadu.