TIRUPATI: The help kiosk near the mortuary of the Sri Venkateswara Medical College here wore a deserted look since Wednesday morning as mandal revenue officers (MROs) , who are deployed there, were assigned the task of handling relatives of the 20 labourers killed in the encounter, besides guiding them in identifying the dead after the autopsy and allocating logistics to return to their home towns with the bodies.
It was not until 2 pm that the relatives of the dead started thronging the place. Rumours spread that those who arrived to claim the bodies would be taken into custody for further investigation of red sanders smuggling mafia. Unmindful of such rumours, the first group of relatives from Thiruvannamalai arrived at the kiosk and started identifying the bodies.
Karunakaran from Murugapadi of Kannamangalam winced as he identified his younger brother Munuswami (35) and six others of his locality. “Who is answerable to his three-year-old child and his wife? All these people are daily wage labourers, massacring them is totally an unpardonable act. When there are laws to protect animals, what happened to the laws that are supposed to protect the lives of people? Is there any justice available to the poor?,” Karunakaran said.
Trashing the govt statement that it was an encounter in self-defence, he explained, “In total, eight people started from our place in a bus. Seven were arrested in Nagiri, but a middle-aged eighth person who was seated away from the group escaped and intimated us about the others,” he said.
Ayyappan, who belongs to the same region, picked the picture of his cousin Palani (35) from the lot at the kiosk with a neutral expression and said, “My cousin is a labourer who travels to places for livelihood. This is his venture into the so-called smuggling. Instead of weeding out kingpins, killing innocents is totally insane.”
Ex-councillor Palaniswami, who accompanied them, said, “We are helpless. Even though the govt sets up an enquiry commission, it cannot bring back the lives of dead.”