August 20, 2021 12:28:37 am
Five tribals of Samarkuva village in Tapi district were injured after a scuffle between the forest officials and villagers on Wednesday night. Forest officials claimed that the several residents of the village, which is bordering the reserve forest, were allegedly involved in illegally cutting trees.
According to forest officials, the incident took place in Kherwada range in Songadh taluka Wednesday night when the Range Forest Officer Ashwina Patel and forest department staff, along with a group of State Reserve Police (SRP) personnel, had kept a watch on the reserve forest area to catch a tempo loaded with wooden logs of Teak, Sheesam and Khair.
A group of people who were cutting the trees escaped before the officials could catch them, said forest officials.
Forest officials again got a tip-off that the wooden logs were being unloaded at different houses in Samarkuva village.
The teams reached the village at night and started a search operation at different houses. The villagers stopped forest officials from carrying out the search operation, which led to a heated argument between them.
The confrontation turned violent and the forest officials used force to disperse the villagers. The villagers also retaliated with wooden sticks. Songadh police also reached the spot and controlled the situation. Forest officials had searched over 20 houses but could not find the stolen wooden logs and returned to their office.
Five villagers identified as Jitendra Vasava, Haresh Vasava, Sonel Vasava, Dalpat Vasava, and Kalpanaben Vasava were injured in the incident. Jitendra incurred head injuries and was shifted to Mandvi referral hospital for treatment and was later discharged.
Smarkuva village sarpanch Ashok Vasava said, “The forest officials reached the village late in the night and carried out a search operation in different houses,. People started shouting for help after forest officials forcefully entered their houses… The officials had found nothing and they came to harass us. The villagers objected and this resulted into physical altercation and five people were injured, out of which one is an ASHA worker. Songadh police reached the spot and controlled the situation. No police complaint had been registered, as the villagers fear that the forest officials would book them in false cases.”
Range Forest Officer Ashvina Patel said, “We have been receiving information about several people involved in illegally cutting the forest trees and selling it in the market… Yesterday we acted after getting a tip-off… We reached Samarkuva village from where the thieves belong and started a search operation. We suspect that they had hidden the wooden logs in nearby sugarcane fields. We will carry out a search operation in the sugarcane fields in a couple of days.”
Deputy Conservator of the Forest Anand Kumar, who met the forest officials and the villagers Thursday to understand the situation, said that the law enables “the forest officials to carry out search operations in the houses when required.”
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