TIRUVANNAMALAI: A 40-year-old man from the district was gunned down by the Special Task Force (STF) personnel in Seshachalam Reserve Forest of Andhra Pradesh on Saturday, taking the total number of persons killed in similar incidents in the last month to four.
S Veeramani (40), a resident of Vinayagapuram near Kannamangalam and a father of two, was killed when the security personnel encountered a gang of over 50 men with axes and sickles in the Pallapalli Range around 8 am on Saturday. “Veeramani’s brother Mahadevan, a mason, took him to work to a nearby village last week. After working for two days, he disappeared. Though his family members tried to contact him, his phone was found to be switched off,” said a Vinayagapuram resident.
Sources claimed that the STF personnel opened fire after the red sander smugglers pelted stones and threw sickles and axes at them. The team also combed the forest to arrest the absconding gangsters.
The STF was constituted to fight red sander smugglers following the brutal killing of two forest department personnel in 2012. Tasked with the mandate to flush out red sander mafias and protect the Seshachalam RF, the force was well equipped with arms and ammunition.
While hundreds of woodcutters engaged by kingpins of the multi-crore international illegal business ended up in jail in Tirupati, a few lost their lives, said a forest official in Tiruvannamalai.
Within a span of about a month, four persons hailing from Tiruvannamalai district were gunned down by the STF personnel in two separate encounters deep inside the Seshachalam RF.
The STF personnel had gunned down Venkatesan (27), Vijayakanth (25) and Siva (28), all residents of Athimur Panchayat near Polur, in Seshachalam RF on May 29 this year. Another encounter by the special force was on December 2012, which left one dead and another injured.
Despite being aware of the dangers involved, hundreds of youth from Jawadhu Hills are discreetly entering the red sander-rich Seshachalam area to earn a quick buck.
“The tribal youth’s ability to trek hard terrain, cut down huge trees with ease and climb down hills with logs weighing more than 50 to 60 kg make them priceless assets for the red sander mafias,” said a forest officer.