SALEM: Forest guards from Karnataka, who have a shoot at sight order against some former associates of slain brigand Veerappan and other budding bandits, opened fire on a group of five Tamils living in the interstate border early on Thursday.
While one person was feared dead in the firing, another was injured.
According to Kolathur police sources, the five villagers from Chettipatti and Karaikaddu had entered the forest for hunting.
However, local residents claimed that they had gone fishing.
Sources said that Palani (40) of Chettipatti, about five kms from Palar interstate border where the incident is said to have occurred, Raja (30) of Govindapadi, Muthusamy, Settu and Lakshmanan of Nettakalkottai went to the Palar river on Wednesday night.
The MM Hills Wildlife Sanctuary security personnel and Karnataka Forest Department guards who have shoot at sight order on poachers from Tamil Nadu fired at the group on Thursday morning within Karnataka borders, almost 0.5 kms from Nettakalkottai.
It has been confirmed that all the four, except Palani, managed to flee and are absconding.
Raja sustained a bullet injury on his leg.
The Kolathur police visited the border villages and asked them to pass on information if the suspects turned up.
Salem Superintendent of Police R Sakthivel said Raja is believed to be in a hospital and further investigations are on.
According to M Ravikumar, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mettur, a search is on for Palani.
Forest Department personnel on both sides of the border were, however, unable to confirm the incident or provide clues about Palani’s whereabouts, he said.
Human rights activists claimed that the Karnataka forest personnel had mistook the ordinary villagers for poachers.
A Julius, a human rights lawyer and Erode District Dravidar Kazhagam Advocate Wing organiser, has urged the Tamil Nadu Government and Salem police to ensure that the Karnataka Forest Department refrains from indiscriminate action on the poor villagers.
Julius added that he had written about the vulnerability of the Tamils living in the border and the need to safeguard them, to the West Zone Inspector General of Police Shankar.