Anger erupts among villagers in Mandi, allege police of portraying murder of forest guard as suicide
The villagers and lower forest staff have lost faith in HP Government and its police. Afraid of manipulation, they are demand investigation by SIT and CBI.
MANDI- The case of alleged murder a forest guard by forest mafia in Karsog division of Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh is leading to shocking discovery of mass felling of trees in the beat where the deceased guard was posted. Based on information extracted from guard’s diary and some letters, a team of forest department searched the jungle in Seri-Katanda (सेरी कतांडा) beat and has recovered about 70 stumps of trees felled recently. Over 20 slippers were also found hidden in the jungle, as per the report.
The guard has even mentioned complaining about illegal felling to higher officials. Now, there are some questions that must be answered. Firstly, why the officials didn’t act on complaints of the guard? How is it possible that forest officials in that particular beat weren’t aware about axing of trees on such a large scale? Why police, that had registered a case of murder earlier, has changed the tone and is insisting that it was a suicide?
The villagers have lost faith in government and its police. People have taken to streets and are protesting against the administration, police, and even disappointed with media for manipulating news. The forest employees are also furious and have demanded that the case should be given to Special Investigation Team (SIT) for further investigation. Similarly, the villagers have demanded inquiry through Central Crime Branch (CBI) instead of State Police.
There isn’t any doubt that forest mafia is very active in Himachal and is prowling for trees unbridled. Like mining mafia, forest mafia has entrenched itself in the government machinery.
So far, five people including the Block Officer have been arrested in the case that suggests that forest officials are hands-in-globe with mafia.
Police has reportedly recovered a bag, two vials of poison, and few letters near the spot where the dead body of the forest guard Hoshiar Singh was found hanging upside down from a tree.
Two pieces of paper containing hand-written messages were found from the bag while one other was recovered from the quarters of the deceased, said police. Police has also recovered a diary that, as per the police, contains written records of how the forest guard was being pressurized to join the nexus. However, the letters have been sent for forensic investigation to match the handwriting. Police had earlier registered a case of suspected murder, but now it’s also considering possibilities of suicide as vials of poison, letters, and samples of vomits found near the spot. In one of the letters, Hoshiar has left message for her grandmother while in another letter he has named the Block Officer and four others for pressurizing him to be silent about the illegal felling.
Police has detained all five and had taken them on three day remand in connection with the case. After 24 hours of arrest, the Divisional Forest Officer has suspended the BO.
The villagers were enraged over the alleged brutal killing of young forest guard and didn’t agree that Hoshiar could commit suicide. The relatives of the guard has also claimed that he often mentioned how forest mafia has entrenched itself in the forest department, and that it is plundering the forests with shocking impunity. A few relatives even said that Hoshiar had even shown them videos containing visuals of illegal felling in trees. Moreover, the villagers have questioned how he was hanging upside down from tree if he had committed suicide.
The autopsy report of the guard, as per reports, said that no wounds were found on the body. However, a picture of the body hanging from tree clearly shows wounds on both wrists.
Moreover, the letters and the diary also suggested conflict between honest guard and his own department. The deceased has mentioned receiving life threats from forest mafia. When the forest guard reported it to the higher officials, he was ignored and told to keep quite. As per police, the dairy also hinted how illegal wood market works in three to four stages.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has taken the matter very lightly. In media statement, he said, “It happens at times”. The CM isn’t ready to accept that forest mafia is thwarting in Himachal.
Plenty of cases have been reported during last six months where the field staff of the forest department was roughed up by forest mafia. In Bilaspur district, Congress MLA, Bambar Singh Thakur, even assaulted the DFO, Bilaspur when he tried to stop illegal felling of trees and encroachment on the government land.
The HP Forest Minister is also enjoying perks of power. Rather, massive illegal felling of trees has been reported from his home district – Chamba. He doesn’t seem to care about either the forests or the safety of forest staff. The minister has not given any statement regarding the current case of alleged murder of the guard.
More revelations are expected if the police is allowed to do its job. However, there would be no surprise if police concludes it as a case of suicide. After all, the real mafia is sitting inside the assembly house. Like always, committees have been formed to investigate the case, but that hardly matters as they are the creation of mafia itself.
If government actually cares about delivering justice, then it must reach the bottom of the case. Not only Himachal facing colossal loss of flora and fauna due to corruption, but has also started losing lives now.