The Narmada police on Friday arrested nine persons from the tribal village of Khatam in Dediapada taluka of the district for allegedly assaulting police and forest officials who were trying to clear encroachment on forest land on September 2.
The Dediapada police booked 30 persons for rioting, damage of public property, trespassing on forest land and criminal intimidation as well as for violating the Covid-19 prohibitory orders. Till Friday, 13 persons were arrested the mandatory Covid-19 test.
Sub-inspector AR Damor of Dediapada police station told this newspaper that the case pertained to a block of forest land between two villages of the tribal taluka namely Koliwad and Khatam. The villagers had been fighting to stake claim on the land belonging to the forest department to sow cotton since July.
The forest department uprooted the saplings earlier and planted other plants to deter the villagers from trespassing on the land. However, the villagers allegedly cleared the land and began farming again.
Damor said, “On Wednesday, forest officials reached the spot to clear the land of the saplings planted by the villagers. Residents of both the villages who were staking claim to farm on the land, entered into a heated argument. Forest officers informed the police and we reached in time to avert any major incident.”
“While villages of Koliwad left, men from Khatam began threatening the forest officials and the police. When we detained the four persons who were abusive, the villagers attacked the police officers and vehicles,” he added.
The forest department had previously also booked a case against the same villagers — many of whom were booked a second time on Wednesday — for trespassing on the forest land during the lockdown in April.
“The villagers cut down trees to clear forest land for farming during the lockdown. They were booked and warned but they continued to stake claim on the forest land. We are investigating the issue and will soon take action against repeat offenders,” Damor said.
The 30 villagers have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Disaster management Act and well as Public Property Damage Act. Nine of them arrested on Friday will be produced before a local court on Saturday to seek remand.
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