Mob torches forest beat house over custodial death of alleged poacher in Odisha
An angry mob in Odisha’s Cuttack district on Monday ransacked and set fire to a forest beat house over the alleged custodial death of a 59-year-old man arrested in connection with the poaching of a tusker
An angry mob in Odisha’s Cuttack district on Monday ransacked and set fire to a forest beat house over the alleged custodial death of a 59-year-old man arrested in connection with the poaching of a tusker.
Officials said that an angry mob ransacked and set fire to Banpur beat house in Athgarh forest division over the alleged custodial death of one Dhaneswar Behera.
Behera, a resident of Khuntakata Satagochhia village, was arrested by officers at Badamba forest range on Sunday on charges of killing an elephant and removing its tusks. The bullet-ridden carcass of a tusker with its tusks missing was found in the Hipinda Reserve forest under the Badamba range on January 31, officials said.
“The mob set up a road blockade after setting fire to the Banpur beat house demanding action against the 14 forest officials who they alleged thrashed Dhaneswar Behera to death. We have detained the 14 forest officials for interrogation,” said Athagarh sub-divisional police officer Bijay Kumar Bisi.
Among the detained include assistant conservators of forests and a forest ranger. State principal chief conservator of forest Debidutta Biswal said a conservator rank officer has been sent to Athagarh for the probe.
“We are likely to get the probe report today and if third-degree torture is found to be the cause of the death of the man, stern action will be taken against the erring officials,” said Biswal.
The custodial death came on the backdrop of two cases of elephant poaching this year.
According to forest officials, on January 21, the decomposed carcass of an elephant with its tusks missing was found in Similipal Tiger Reserve. A few days after the discovery of the carcass, police in Mayurbhanj district arrested seven people involved in the poaching and recovered tusks from them.
Last month, the carcass of an elephant was recovered from the forest in the Sambalpur Sadar range, nearly a month after it was electrocuted by 11KV live wire laid by poachers to trap boars.
Odisha government which has been facing criticism over its failure in protecting the elephants told the Orissa high court last month that it would set up fast-track courts with special public prosecutors for speedy trial of wildlife offences and bookcases against wildlife poachers in local police stations where arms, explosives or poison is involved in wildlife cases. Besides, legal experts would be engaged at the circle level to prepare case records in wildlife offence cases in the next two months.
In the affidavit filed before the two-judge bench of chief justice S Muralidhar and justice Murahari Raman on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a stricter wildlife law, the state government said it has asked all the range officers and district forest officials to start filing cases against poachers at local police stations.
The state government also told the high court that to reduce man-elephant conflict, the state would be divided into four zones with a focus on strict protection, improving habitat quality and retaining the optimum number of elephants within them throughout the year within the ecological carrying capacity in Zone 1 and 2.