VELLORE: Accusing the Andhra Pradesh police of deliberately targeting Tamils in their crackdown on red sander smugglers, around 200 people, including women, staged a protest at Katpadi railway station on Monday.
Led by the founder of Ambedkar Puratchi Munnani Movement, M Durairaj, the members of the outfit alleged that innocent tribals from the State were being lured by the red sander mafia into cutting sander trees. The agitators demanded the release of the people belonging to Scheduled Tribes jailed in Nellore and Kadapa districts of Andhra Pradesh.
Further, the agitators demanded that the State government give a compensation of `50 lakh each to the family members of those killed in police encounters. Raising slogans against the Andhra Pradesh government, the outfit’s members demanded that the Central and the State governments take up the issue at the highest level and expedite the release.
They also sought the intervention of the Human Rights Commission to end the woes of the tribals.
Speaking to Express, Durairaj said, “People from the border areas have been killed by the Andhra forest officials for no reason. Politicians and mafia often make use of their ignorance and lure them into red sander smuggling. These tribals bear the brunt of the attack by officials during crackdown, while the politicians and kingpins escape unscathed. These people don’t even know the value of the trees they fell.”
“Not everyone, who lives in these areas cut red sanders. The section that violates the rule comprises a minor chunk. Though most of the tribals go to Andhra as daily wage labourers, the Andhra police and forest officials intentionally target them. They are targeted because they are Tamils. Between 2013 and 2014, 80 people have been killed by the Andhra officials, of which five were beaten to death. Many people are still missing,” he added.
The members demanded the officials to release the tribals within 10 days.