A 27-YEAR-OLD man was shot during a clash between a group of villagers and forest guards at Datarganj village, adjoining Sampurna Nagar forest range in North Kheri Forest division of Pilibhit district on Sunday, police said.
Police identified the deceased as Kulwant Singh, a farmer from Datarganj village, which is located around 200 metres from Sampurna Nagar forest range.
Forest department officers claimed that the incident took place when villagers entered into a scuffle with some forest guards who allegedly caught them stealing logs from the forest.
The villagers, however, denied the charge and claimed that they had gone inside the forest area in search of a missing buffalo when forest guards hurled verbal abuses and later fired at them.
Based on a complaint by Kulwant’s elder brother, Jaswant Singh, a murder case was registered against forest guard Kanhaiya Lal and two others, including forest watcher Nirmal Kumar, at Hazara Police Station.
The forest department, too, has registered an FIR at the department’s police station against three persons — deceased Kulwant Singh and his neighbours, Sukhvinder Singh and Sadhu Singh — and four unidentified persons under Wildlife Protection Act and Indian Forest Act.
Pilibhit Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Sonkar said, “Villagers and forest department officers have made allegations at each other. Forest officers claimed that villagers had fired at them when they tried to stop them. Villagers claimed forest department officials had opened fired on them. Action will be taken on the basis of evidence collected.” No arrests have been made yet.
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), North Kheri division, Anil Kumar Patel, said in the early hours of Sunday, they were tipped off about some persons carrying wood with them after cutting a tree in Sampurna Nagar forest area. A two-member forest team, including Kanhaiya Lal, spotted three persons carrying wood on their bicycles.
Kanhaiya Lal was carrying his service rifle with him, the DFO said.
Patel said when forest officers asked villagers to stop, they opened fire. The villagers also attempted to snatch the rifle from Kanhaiya Lal. The forest department team heard a gunshot noise and and fled the spot. On reaching their office, forest officers registered FIR and also informed Hazara police station about the incident.
A few hours later, the forest department were informed that one had died of a bullet injury in the skirmish.
“It will be part of the investigation to find from which weapon the bullet that hit Kulwant Singh was fired. Villagers were also carrying firearms with them,” claimed DFO Patel, adding that no wood was recovered from the spot.
When contacted, station house officer, Hazara police station, Sunil Kumar Singh said when they reached the village, they were informed of the firing incident. The brother of the deceased has alleged that the victim, along with two others, had gone inside the forest area in search of his buffalo, which went missing Saturday.
“As per the complaint, when his brother and two neighbours were returning to the village, forest officers stopped them and started verbally abusing them for entering the forest area without permission. Forest officers opened fire at them and a bullet hit Kulwant Singh, his brother has alleged,” said Sunil Kumar.