Sand mafia attacked my team, police failed to act promptly: MP forest officer
Over 100 masked men attacked a team of forest department led by a woman officer with sticks and stones after it seized a tractor-trolley carrying illegally mined sand in Madhya Pradesh’s Morena district on Wednesday night. The officer, Shradha Pandre, said the police did not come to their rescue immediately even as the local police station is located just a km away from the attack scene.
Pandre, the sub-divisional forest officer (Chambal Sanctuary), who has been attacked earlier as well, accused police officers of supporting the illegal mining mafia. She added they are not letting her curb the illegal sand mining menace.
Pandre said she called the police at least twice. “I informed the police after the seizure of tractor but police inspector of Devgarh police station refused to come. We decided to seize the tractor by ourselves just 1 km away from the police station near Lohikapura village. Over 100 people attacked us and stopped our vehicle by putting stones and thorny bushes on the road. I called the police once again, but they reached after 15 minutes,” she said.
She added special armed force guard Mukesh Sen sustained injuries in the attack. “We locked ourselves in the vehicle and rushed towards the police station.”
Pandre said despite videos and clear evidence against the attackers, police registered a case under the Indian Penal Code’s Sections 147 (rioting), 336 (endangering life or personal safety of others), and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty). “They are not willing to register a case under Section 307 (attempt to murder) as they do not want to take tough action against the mafia,” she added.
Pandre said the mafia has earlier eight times fired with country-made pistols, tried to mow down her, and attacked her with stones. She added the police just registered a case of assault.
“The police said instead of spot action after receiving information related to illegal mining, I should have informed authorities and made plans accordingly. By doing this, I would only have given time to the mafia to get information on possible action and to run away from the spot. Villagers are sharing information with us as they have started trusting us. I do not want to do table work. I am a field officer, and it is my duty to stop illegal sand mining in the sanctuary area.”
Activists supported Pandre and accused local administration and police of allegedly patronising the mafia.
“Pandre is doing a good job. The mining mafia could be controlled with prompt raids not with action by making a plan. I am sure that someone from the police department would have informed the villagers of the movement of the forest team on Wednesday night,” said Satendra Singh, a local social activist.
“On the roads of Chambal division, anyone can see the movement of at least 20-25 tractor trolleys laden with illegally mined sand daily but hardly any officer or police stop them to take action. The illegal sand mining business is flourishing in the region with the support of politicians, police, and other officers,” said Vinayak Tomar, an environmentalist.
Divisional forest officer Amit Nikam said he has informed their head office about the attack.
Morena police superintendent Lalit Shakyawar called Pandre allegations serious, and said they are inquiring about the matter.
Additional police superintendent Raisingh Narwariya said it is more a case of miscommunication. “If the police station in charge did not respond to her call properly, she should have called me or the superintendent of police. But we did not receive any call.”
Narwayiya said Pandre is doing a great job but should follow the system. “In a task force meeting, the divisional commissioner Ashish Saxena clearly said that forest and police officials have to inform sub-divisional magistrate before any action against mafia so that required force could be provided to them, but Pandre is conducting raids randomly and risking her life and that of other officials too.”