Maharashtra: Villagers turn violent; forest staff, cops injuredhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/maharashtra-villagers-turn-violent-forest-staff-cops-injured-5551159/

Maharashtra: Villagers turn violent; forest staff, cops injured

According to a press note issued by Srinivas Reddy, field director of the MTR, villagers, who were ousted from the reserve and rehabilitated in villages nearby, hurled stones, used weapons and sticks when they were being forced out of the reserve.

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In an attack on forest officials of the Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR), 50 staffers and 15 policemen were injured (File Photo: REUTERS/Representational)

Scores of policemen and Forest staffers were injured when austees of Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR) allegedly attacked them near Kelpani area of Akot division of Melghat Tiger Reserve on Tuesday afternoon.

According to a press note issued by MTR Field Director Srinivas Reddy, 50 Forest staffers and 15 policemen were injured in the attack.

The oustees from many villages in MTR who were rehabilitated outside the reserve several years ago had stormed the core area on January 14 with a resolve to reclaim their old places for some fresh demands, including five acre land for each. Over the last about a week, efforts were on to coax them out of the reserve. Of the over 500 to 600 squatters, about 300 to 400 were taken out, but the rest had refused to budge.

On January 14 around 300- 500 residents of rehabilitated villages of Akot division, instigated by some local leaders and miscreants, had entered the MTR and occupied the meadows illegally. On January 22, around 3:00pm police and Forest staff approached them at Kelpani to forward their issues to the higher authorities. The local authorities had brought busses to coax the villagers, who were 200- 300 in numbers, out of the forest. During the talks the villagers became violent and started pelting stones at the police and forest staff. Many of them attacked the forest staff with axe, slings, sticks, chilli powder and stones. In the ensuing melee over 50 forest staff and 15 police staff was seriously injured,’ the press note said. Some of the staff received serious laceration injuries on their backs, arms and heads. Dhargad RFO Mr. Sunil Wakode was among the seriously injured in attack by axe,’ the press note further said.

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It added: “Over 15 government vehicles were also damaged in the attackwhen the police and Forest staffers retaliated, the attackers fled the scene and also set fire to the entire meadows of that division.”

The officials have imposed section 144 in the area. Senior officials including Reddy and Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Sunil Limaye have rushed to the spot. Amravati Superintendent of Police Dilip Zhalke said,’ We have rounded up a few people from the spot and will take action against those involved in the attack.’

PCCF AK Mishra said,’ The oustees had happily settled outside the result after accepting the rehabilitstion package given to them at that time. But if they make some fresh demand after five years, its completely illegal. But they could still be sympathetically heard, however if they resort to this kind of violence, things will only get worse.’