Residents of Vontimitta in Andhra Pradesh's Kadapa district were horrified when they found five bodies floating in a lake on Sunday.
Speaking to the media on Monday, Officer on Special Duty Adnan Naim Asmi said that the men were believed to be from Salem, Tamil Nadu. An FIR has been lodged.
The AP police are also in touch with their colleagues from Salem. The men have reportedly been identified, and their families have been called.
Addressing the media, Kurnool DIG G Srinivas said, "till their kith and kin come and claim the bodies, we can't exactly say they are from Salem".
"As of now, there are no eyewitnesses to the incident. But, our primary investigation suggests that they drowned," he added.
According to police sources, the men have been identified as Murugesan, Chinnappayi, Jayaraj, Murugesan and Kariappan. All the deceased from reportedly from Karunmandurai.
The men allegedly came to Kadapa from Salem in search of jobs five days ago.
Adnan said that preliminary indications suggested that it appeared to be a "clear case of drowning".
â€śAt this point of time, it is difficult to tell. The reasons can be further established following the autopsy,â€ť Adnan said when asked about the cause of death.
A team of three doctors who conducted the autopsy told the media that as per their preliminary observation, the cause of death was drowning.
"All the bodies were in a highly decomposed state. Since the bodies were decomposed, it is hard to find the injuries," said Dr L Anand, one of the doctors. The report will come in 1-2 months, they said.
"We are sending the viscera and the stern to the FSL," they said.
Since the bodies were found floating in the lake, there has been speculation that the men may have been woodcutters from another state, brought in by red sanders smugglers.
On Friday night, a shootout is rumoured to have taken place between the Special Task Force and red sanders smugglers at the Seshachalam forests. The STF opened fire after smugglers allegedly pelted stones at them.
On Saturday, a scuffle allegedly broke out between the cops and the labourers, which lead to a confrontation.
Adnan, when questioned if there was a confrontation, claimed that the allegations were baseless.
DIG Srinivas refuted allegations that there was a confrontation, and also said that no locals were involved in the incident.
The men were found in the Vontimitta Tank. Locals in the area, however, say that the lake is shallow, and that people could not have drowned.
Activists have demanded that the Tamil Nadu government take the matter up in court against the Andhra government and police.
K Ramkumar, state secretary of the Organisation of Democratic Rights, said that this needs to be exposed.
â€śWhy are the alleged woodcutters getting killed? This needs to be exposed,â€ť he said.
The organisation has also demanded a judicial inquiry into the matter.