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Forest officials destroy tribal village in Betul

Suchanda Gupta

Wednesday 23 July 2003, by SUCHANDANA GUPTA

Article du Times of India, ?dition du 23 juillet 2003.

BHOPAL: The Madhya Pradesh state police have registered a case of attempt to murder, arson, dacoity and rioting against three forest officials, including a deputy ranger and 25 others who beat-up tribals and burnt down a `Korku’ tribal village in the forest areas of Betul district 240 kms from here.

The accused officials along with members of the state’s forest protection committees on two separate days allegedly attacked Bhandarpani — a tribal village in the Sarni segment - beat-up the residents, looted their homes, destroyed property, robbed tribals of the forest produce stocked in their hutments and set alight the entire village.

It has also been alleged that the rioters threw an eight month old baby into the burning hutments. The baby, was saved by his grandmother.

Kotwali police station in Betul town, south Madhya Pradesh Tuesday evening registered a case under section 307 (attempt to murder), 395 (punishment for dacoity), 397 (robbery or dacoity, with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt), 435 ( mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage to amount of one hundred or (in case of agricultural produce) ten rupees, 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon) of Indian Penal Code.

Bhandarpuri is a village of Korku tribals, a cluster of just ten hutments with 65 persons inhabiting it. On July 17, allegedly ten forest officials and 150 state forest protection committee members went on a rampage in the forest between 12 noon and 1 pm. The tribals were told that they had encroached on the reserve forest land hence the `action’.

According Anurag Modi, convener of the Shramik Adivasi Sangathan, a tribal protection NGO, the forest officials went on a rioting and looting spree before setting alight the village. ``They severely beat the tribals and carried away the mahua, chironji, chicken, utensils, a goat, money and even clothes. They did not even spare a 70-year-old tribal man Saddu. Men, women and children - no one was spared,’’ Modi said.

``While departing from the village, the officials had warned that the tribals should disappear or the officials would be back on July 20 for more beatings. On July 19, the tribals came to us. By the time we reached the village on July 20, the second phase of rioting was over. They had destroyed everything,’’ Modi added.

Modi along with some tribals reached Betul town and got in touch with the administration. The police started an investigation and registered the case. No one has been arrested yet. Meanwhile, the tribals of Bhandarpur with their little children are braving the monsoons and taking shelter under the trees of the forests with no home, no clothes or food. And the nearest human habitation is some 20 kms away and the nearest hospital 70 kms away. ``Our only demand is that relief should be reached to these tribals immediately,’’ Anurag Modi added.

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