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Rebel cloud on forest controversy

Sultan Bathery (Kerala), Feb. 20: The bloody clash involving hundreds of tribals and law enforcement agencies that claimed at least five lives in the Muthanga wildlife sanctuary yesterday looks set to develop into a war of attrition in the forests of Wayanad district.

The police and forest personnel demolished and burnt a large number of huts the tribals had vacated since last evening. Over 1,000 armed policemen and forest personnel are camping in the sanctuary.

Senior police officers told The Telegraph that the tribals were being trained by the People’s War Group, the Naxalite outfit based in Andhra Pradesh. A senior official said the police’s intelligence wing had submitted to chief minister A.K. Antony a report on this aspect of the tribals’ agitation.

The tribals are now mobilising fresh volunteers and resources from Wayanad and neighbouring districts with the call to launch a “final battle”.

A bandh organised by the Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha threw life out of gear today in several parts of Wayanad.

An Opposition delegation, led by CPM Politburo member V.S. Achuthanandan, is expected to arrive at Muthanga tomorrow on a factfinding mission.

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