Chennai: Protests erupted in several parts of Tamil Nadu on Thursday as bodies of the 20 woodcutters shot dead by police in Andhra Pradesh for allegedly smuggling a precious wood reached the state.
And breaking her silence, AIADMK leader J. Jayalalithaa asked Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu to hold a "proper probe" into the Tuesday killings in Chittoor district that activists say was nothing short of a cold-blooded massacre.
Tamil Nadu has witnessed sporadic protests ever since news of the killings became known Tuesday. But these were intense on Thursday as the bodies of the dead workers reached their villages.
In Tiruvanamallai district, mourning relatives of the dead, from poor families belonging to two Tamil Nadu districts, placed the bodies on roads demanding justice.
They also sought a detailed probe into the incident by the Central Bureau of Investigation, saying no probe by the Andhra Pradesh government would ever uncover the truth.
The protesting relatives alleged that they saw burn marks on the bodies -- charges levelled earlier by activists who claimed that the victims were probably caught and tortured before being killed.
The victims were allegedly engaged in illegally cutting down and smuggling red sanders wood when the police shot them dead apparently after coming under attack from them.
The Andhra Pradesh Police has defended the killings, saying the smugglers attacked the police personnel with sickles and other weapons.
Several activists belonging to the Tamil Nadu-based VCK party were arrested in Arakkonam and Vellore districts on Thursday.
Advocates in several places in the state too staged noisy protests against the killings.
In Chennai, a departmental store owned by people reportedly close to Chandrababu Naidu was ransacked by two miscreants.
Protests were also held in front of an Andhra Bank here. In some places, attempts were made to burn effigies of Chandrababu Naidu.
A petition was filed in the Madras High Court praying for a second post-mortem on the bodies of the dead. The first autopsy was done by a government hospital at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh.
Jayalalithaa said in a statement that pictures of the dead published in newspapers and the views expressed by activists gave rise to doubts vis-a-vis the Andhra Pradesh Police version.
She also wanted to know why the police did not use minimum force to deter the Tamils even if one accepted the version that they were engaged in illegal activity.
She requested the Andhra Pradesh chief minister to hold a "proper probe" into the killings and take appropriate action against the policemen if they were found guilty.
Jayalalithaa announced a solatium of Rs.200,000 each to the family of the deceased on behalf of the AIADMK party.
PMK leader S. Ramadoss demanded to know why Prime Minister Narendra Modi was silent on the mass killings.
All political parties in Tamil Nadu, including the BJP and the Congress, have denounced the killings and demanded punishment to the policemen in Andhra Pradesh.