March 26, 2021 2:18:58 pm
Vinod Shivkumar, Deputy Conservator of Forest (DCF), Gugamal division of Melghat, was arrested by the Amravati police on Friday for abetment to suicide of a forest officer. “We arrested him from Nagpur railway station on Friday morning when he was about to board a train to his place in Karnataka,” Superintendent of Police Hari Balaji said.
Harisal Range Forest Officer (RFO) Deepali Chavan, who had shot herself dead on Thursday evening, had accused Shivkumar of harassing her.
“The arrest was made on the basis of the suicide note Chavan had left behind in which she had accused Shivkumar of harassing her in the matter of her day-to-day work and had clearly mentioned that he was responsible for her taking the extreme step. Chavan’s husband Rajesh Mohite has filed a police complaint regarding this,” Balaji added.
Chavan, 34, was working as RFO at Harisal for over three years. Shivkumar, who was serving his first posting as DCF, was her supervising officer. Chavan had shot herself with her service pistol on Thursday evening after her mother, who was staying with her, had left for Satara, where Chavan belonged. Chavan’s husband Rajesh is working as Treasury Officer at Chikhaldara, also in Melghat.
In the four-page suicide note addressed to Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR) Field Director Srinivas Reddy, Chavan has narrated her plight and has also accused Reddy of not paying heed to her repeated requests to address the issue of her “harassment” by Shivkumar.
“Initially, Shivkumar was being very nice to me but had later started issuing notices to me by believing some local staffers who would mislead him about me. He would frequently threaten to suspend and chargesheet me. When I was doing rehabilitation work in 2-3 villages, Shivkumar would come to the villages and abuse me in front of everyone using foul words. He would never try to understand my position and would force me to do things which were not in conformity with the rules,” Chavan has said in her suicide note.
She has further said, “on March 7, 2020, when I was busy removing forest encroachments at Mangia village, some local people abused us and locked us up in a house. When I informed Shivkumar, he said that I was lying and staging a drama. When I told him that the villagers were threatening to register offence against me under Atrocities Act, Shivkumar said I would myself call the SP and tell him to apply atrocity to you and will see how you feel spending four months in jail,” adding, “my mobile has a recording of this conversation with him.”
Chavan has said that she has played out the recording to Amravati MP Navneet Rana.
The deceased RFO has also accused Shivkumar of making her travel for three days on undulating roads in the Makur area, leading to misscarriage of her pregnancy. “But Shivkumar did not grant me leave,” she has said.
She has also accused Shivkumar of not allowing her to go to Amravati to be with her family even once during the month. “He asks me to meet him at late hours in the night and speaks to me in vulgar language. Many times he called me to the tourist complex and even at the Akot diversion and tried to take undue advantage of my being alone with him. He is punishing me for not submitting to his whims,” she has said.
Chavan has also accused Reddy of ignoring her complaints about Shivkumar, saying, “you will not be able to do anything about him because you yourself are firmly behind him.”
“He often comes to Harisal and hurls abuses. This can be proved if you check the CCTV footages. All the staffers at Harisal also know about this,” she has said.
Chavan has also said, “You (Reddy) have supported me a lot till now. I feel safe when you are around and I thank you a lot for this. Shivkumar alone is responsible for my taking the extreme step and I hope you will take strict action against him.”
Asked about the accusations in the suicide note, Reddy said, “Chavan and her husband had come to me in September and had orally told me about the alleged harassment by Shivkumar and had sought my intervention. But she didn’t give anything to me in writing. So, I had orally admonished Shivkumar asking him to behave.”
Reddy also said that he had prevented her arrest in the Mangia Atrocity case by personally requesting the SP not to arrest her since she was only doing her duty. “Earlier too, about three years ago, the police had proceeded to arrest her in a MNREGS payment case. Then also I had prevented her arrest by requesting the police,” he said.
A senior wildlife activist from Amravati said, “It’s a very unfortunate saga. Shivkumar was known to be a very tough officer and had turned the Gugamal division into an impregnable fortress through his strict enforcement of protection measures. Chavan, too, was a very good officer and had fone exemplary rehabilitation work of some villages.”
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