Red sandalwood smuggling encounter: Operation not planned says AP govt in detailed response

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Hyderabad, April 8: Battling all allegations that have termed the Chittoor encounter as unwarranted and fake, the Andhra Pradesh government has put up a spirited defence and has termed the incident as bonafide and necessary.

In the many explanations that the Andhra Pradesh government has given it states that those who were killed in the encounter were carrying out smuggling of red sandalwood and were armed. [AP encounter: 1 day, 2 encounters, 25 dead, bonafide under serious question]

Sandalwood: 'Encounter was not planned'

Explanations were sought from the AP government from the National Human Rights Commission and also the Home Ministry after it was alleged that the encounter was not necessary.

Further it was also alleged that those killed were wood cutters and they were not armed with guns and hence such action was not mandated.

Not a planned encounter:

The government of Andhra Pradesh said that the Red Sanders Anti Smuggling Task Force was patrolling the Sheshachalam hill range when they found that smuggling was going on.

The RSASTF sent warning signals for them to stop and also directed them to turn themselves in or surrender.

However, after several requests and warning shots in the air, none of them were ready to listen, the AP government has also said.

Instead of surrendering these smugglers who were around 80 in number began attacking the officials.

They were armed and began pelting stones, sticks and even tried to attack the officers with axes.

The officers did their best to ensure that there was no gun fire, but it appeared as though those smugglers would overpower the force and hence there was firing the government also says while justifying the operation.

Red sandalwood smuggling menace:

Smuggling of red sandalwood in the Sheshachalam hill range in Andhra Pradesh has been rampant for the past several years.

Red sandalwood is found in good quantity in this hill range and due to increased smuggling activities various laws were set into motion to protect red sandalwood, the AP government says.

Further in a bid to specifically counter the smuggling of red sandalwood, the Red Sanders Anti Smuggling Task Force was also set up.

In the past years there have been several instances when smugglers and their men have been arrested.
However yesterday's operation in which 20 were killed was not a planned operation.

The men who were shot at were armed and dangerous and the action needed to be taken, the AP government has also said.

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