Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have decided to bury the hatchet on the encounter killing of 21 red sander cutters from Tamil Nadu by AP police on 8 April in favour of fighting the smuggling of precious wood together, thanks to the intervention of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh at the Southern Regional States Council meeting held at Vijayawada on Saturday. The Home Minister’s intervention came against the backdrop of AP’s complaint to the Centre that TN was not cooperating in taking up joint combing operations in Seshachalam Forest — Satya Mangalam Forests in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka — for the last few years. If the labourers were from Tamil Nadu, smugglers and middlemen were from AP and Karnataka. After the encounter eight months ago, the TN police registered several criminal cases against the AP police and some Tamil groups forced the National Human Rights Commission to launch a probe against AP government.
The hostile attitude between Andhra and Tamil Nadu police has become a headache for the Centre which is keen on curtailing the red sander money supply chain to the underworld, sources said. Tamil Nadu Senior Minister O. Panneerselvam, who represented Chief Minister Jayalalitha at the meeting, assured Rajnath Singh that the AIADMK government would fully cooperate with AP and Karnataka police to prevent smuggling of red sanders. Ever since the encounter there was no coordination between AP and TN.
Rajnath Singh, who persuaded both the sates to come together on this crucial issue, explained that the red sander — which commands a price of around Rs 1 crore per ton in international markets — is being used by the smuggling mafia to fund other underworld nexuses like Maoists and various terror groups in the country. “It is just impossible to stop red sanders smuggling without coordination between AP, TN and Karnataka”, he said.
AP Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu who hosted the meeting expressed his happiness over the offer of cooperation from Tamil Nadu on this issue. Now, the Centre would form joint teams of police and forest special squads to comb over 8,000 sq km of red sander forests covering the borders of AP, TN and Karnataka.
Tackling ISIS recruitment and Maoist menace were the other major issues which were discussed at length at the meeting.