TIRUPATI:The Help Kiosk near the mortuary of Sri Venkateswara Medical College looks deserted since Wednesday morning. Mandal revenue officers (MROs), who were deployed at the kiosk, were assigned with the task of accommodating relatives of the 20 labourers killed in the encounter, besides guiding them in identifying the dead post autopsy and allocating logistics to return to their home towns with the deceased.
Though politicians and human rights activists expressed mixed response to the encounter, it was not until 2 pm that relatives started thronging the place. Rumours spread that the relatives who arrived to claim bodies would be taken into custody for further investigation of red sanders smuggling mafia. But, unmindful of such rumours, the first group of relatives, from Thiruvannamalai of Tamil Nadu arrived at the kiosk and started identifying the bodies.
Karunakaran from Murugapadi of Kannamangalam in Thiruvannamalai, backed off as he identified his younger brother Munuswami (35), son of Gopal Goundar and six others belonging to the vicinity. “Who is answerable to his three-year-old baby and his wife? All these 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 protecting the lives of people? Is there any justice to the poor?” Karunakaran said, raising a series of questions.
He quashed the government’s official statement that it was an encounter in self-defence, and explained, “In total, eight people started from our place as usual in a bus. Seven were arrested in Nagiri, but fortunately a middle-aged eighth person who was seated away from the group escaped and intimated us about the other seven,” he said leaving to see his brother.
Ayyappan, who belongs to the same region, picked a 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. He has visited Kerala and Mumbai several times. But, this is his venture into the so-called smuggling. Instead of weeding out kingpins, killing innocents is totally insane,” he said, echoing the feelings of the kin of the deceased.