Feature Article

Tamil Nadu activist urges attention of global Tamils on ‘Red Sanders Massacre’

[TamilNet, Saturday, 11 April 2015, 22:16 GMT]
The poverty-stricken Tamils in the border areas situated between Tamil Nadu State and Andhra Pradesh State in India are being systematically exploited by smuggling rackets run by gangs from two upper echelons that have been running fiefdoms in Andhra Pradesh in the past and that seek to control the political power in the State. The exploited victims are subjected to indefinite imprisonment and massacres deploying the rule of law in India and the police force in the AP, as it has been exposed in the recent massacre of 20 daily-wage workers on 07 April. The global Tamil community has a moral bound duty to protest against the exploitation as the crime involves the global markets in Eastern Asia, says writer, journalist and Tamil activist Aazhi Senthilnathan in an interview to TamilNet on Saturday.

Aazhi Senthilnathan
Aazhi Senthilnathan
Mr Senthilnathan told TamilNet that Tamils worldwide have a responsibility to raise the awareness of global human rights community on the plight of affected Tamils.

Aazhi Senthilnathan visited the village of Veaddakirip-paa'laiyam near the Andhra Pradesh border and witnessed a protest by the Tamil villagers as two dead bodies of the victims arrived. Senthilanthan visited the village as part of a team of activists from Makka'l I'naiyam, a social democratic group formed by Tamil national activists in Tamil Nadu.

The villagers of Veaddakirip-paa'laiyam were demanding fresh post-mortem examinations as they spotted cut injuries in the hands and legs of the dead bodies of the victims as well as other wounds signalling torture. “These are not victims of an encounter or a fight. They have been subjected to a massacre with an intention,” Mr Senthilnathan says. His team also witnessed that five of the slain victims were from the Adivasi community in the nearby hills, known as Javvaathu-malai.

The crime has international dimensions as well as multi-layered exploitation within Tamil Nadu State and Andhra Pradesh State, he says.

While a politically dominant section of the racket from the Naidu community backs Telugu Desam Party of ruling Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, a competing group of Reddy community seems to back the Congress Party. The poor Tamil workers, being exploited by these rivalry groups have been victimised for a long time, he says.

At least seven people were slain last year in a similar fashion and a large number of Tamils, numbering between 2,500 and 3,000, are languishing in jails, unable to come out on bail to even look after their families.

The protesters at Veaddakirip-paa'laiyam were also demanding investigations by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as they were not having faith in the investigations by the States of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

As a survivor, Mr Sekar, has gone on record, these victims seem to have been arrested by the police of AP while they were en route to Andhra Pradesh and executed after torture, with a motive, he said.

The survivor, a carpenter from Veaddakirip-paa'laiyam, is one of the eyewitnesses to the arrest of 7 of the victims of the massacre on 06 April, while they were on a bus from Thiruththa'ni in Tamil Nadu to Renigunta in Andhra Pradesh. The police from Andhra Pradesh stopped the bus near the border. The policemen who entered the bus picked 7 co-passengers and took them out. All of these victims were among the 20 people who were slain by the AP police the following day, according to Sekar. He had got down the bus at the next stop and returned to his village and when he reached the village, he saw the photos of the victims in the news. Mr Sekar has told Vikatan magazine that a plumber, Mr Mahendran, was taking him to AP promising carpenter work.

The preparation and transportation of the wood logs require sophisticated mechanisms. Only major actors, with organised networks and infrastructure, could handle this type of illegal trade and supply chains. The poverty-stricken Tamil workers are only exploited as workers in cutting the trees, says Aazhi Senthilnathan.

The tree known as Red Sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus) is endemic to Eastern Ghats of India, is an endangered species. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) lists the species with a zero quota on wild specimens for commercial purposes.

Red Sanders has been traditionally used in Japan and China for traditional medical purposes as well as in the making of musical instruments in Japan and furniture with specific cultural significance in China. Modern day use is said to range from Western medicine to nuclear science.

One kilogram of Red Sanders wood log costs between 2,500 and 5,000 Indian Rupees in the illegal supply chain in India, but in the Eastern Asian market, the price is around 100,000 rupees. The wood logs have also been transported as air cargo to the intended destinations as well as through the ports of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Chennai in Tamil Nadu.

In the meantime, legal sources in Chennai said that the Central Government of India, citing an authorisation given by the CITES on one time basis, has permitted the State of Andhra Pradesh to export around 8,000 MTs of Red Sanders, seized in log forms. The deadlines for such sales were extended to 30th April 2015, the sources further said.


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