SALEM/MYSORE,: Tension is brewing in the ‘Veerappan heartland’ of M.M. Hills, after hundreds of villagers from Tamil Nadu vandalised a Karnataka Forest Department checkpoint and office at Palar in Chamarajanagar district and took away five guns on Friday.
The family members and relatives of A. Palani, 45, of Chettipatti village in the Kolathur block set the checkpoint ablaze, alleging that he was beaten to death by personnel of the Karnataka Forest Department. The movement of vehicles was halted in afternoon and armed policemen were posted in both sides of the border.
The Karnataka police said it was an act of reprisal for forest officials firing at suspected poachers in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
“A thousand-strong mob from Govindapadi and adjoining villages in Tamil Nadu entered the border and ransacked the office,” said Javed Mumtaz, Deputy Conservator of Forests, M.M.Hills.
When RFO Madhusudan and his team saw a mob crossing the Palar bridge, they left the checkpoint and the office and fled from the scene. The two-wheeler of the RFO was set ablaze by the mob, which also took away seized ivory, he said.
On October 21, Palani, M. Raja, 42, of Govindapadi and Muthusamy of Nettakalkottai sneaked into the Gobinatham Forest Range in M.M. Hills for hunting. A shoot-out occurred between forest officials and the trio around 3 a.m. Wednesday. Palani’s wife Santha lodged a complaint with the police on Thursday, saying her husband was missing. On Friday morning, his body was found floating with head injuries in the Cauvery at Adipalaru in Karnataka. The others are yet to be traced.
On information, relatives of Palani and people of Govindapadi and the nearby villages gathered in large numbers on the border.
Mr. Mumtaz told The Hindu that forest guards on patrol stumbled upon a gang of four on Thursday and asked them to surrender. But the gang opened fire in a bid to escape. The guards returned the fire, injuring one, who was subsequently found dead.
An anti-poaching camp, which was converted to a school, was also ransacked. “We are getting full cooperation from our counterparts in Tamil Nadu in tracing the poachers,” Mr. Mumtaz said.
Meanwhile, the villagers said Palani was beaten to death by forest personnel and demanded action against them. On a complaint from Santha, the M.M. Hills police registered a case. Villagers demanded that autopsy be done by a team of doctors and the process video-graphed. Even after the body was taken to Mysore for autopsy, over 200 villagers stayed put in the area near the river.