Assam: Forest guards shoot at woodcutters during patrol; one dead

The injured person is still undergoing treatment at the hospital and a third person is untraceable since the incident

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During a routine patrolling, forest guards in Assam’s Khalingduar Reserve Forest shot at two woodcutters, killing one of them. The deceased has been identified as Ram Singh Gorh (40), an employee of Nonaipara Tea Estate in Udalguri and the injured is Sukra Bakhla (46) who has been admitted to Gauhati Medical College Hospital, reported NorthEast Now.

“We have recovered an axe, wood logs and two beaks of hornbill from the spot,” said Ranger of Nonai Forest Range, Netra Kamal Saikia.

This incident has drawn the ire of the villagers since tea garden workers and villagers often collect wood from the forest. The president of the Udalguri district unit of Assam Tea Tribes Students Association Deep Tanti told NENow, “The forest officials along with police recovered the body from the forest without any intimation to the village head or VDP Secretary”. He also claimed that Bakhla, the other woodcutter who was injured was lying in a pool of blood all night and was rescued only after the intervention of the local students’ body and VCDC members, on Thursday, while the incident took place on Wednesday night.

One Bijoy Koya (25) who had accompanied Ram Singh and Bakhla to the forest is reportedly missing after the incident.

Kaziranga’s ‘shoot at sight’

A 2014 report by the park’s director revealed that Kaziranga park guards are encouraged to execute suspected ‘poachers’ on sight with slogans including “must obey or get killed” and “never allow any unauthorized entry (kill the unwanted)”, reports The Ecologist.

While such shoot at sight policy is justified by the government to curb poaching in tiger reserves, the increasing tiger population in BRT tiger reserve of Chamarajanagar district, Karnataka tells a different story. Here, the tribal communities won the right to stay on their ancestral land and militarized conservation tactics are not used, yet, tiger numbers have increased at well above the Indian national average, demonstrating that militarization is not necessary for successful conservation, reports The Ecologist.

In 2016, a 7-year-old boy, Akash Oram, a member of the Oroan tribe was reportedly shot at in Kaziranga, sustaining severe injuries. Jeepal Krishak Shramik Sangha (JKSS), an organisation fighting for forest rights in Assam in a press release had said that from 2013 to 2016, 55 people have been killed in the national park by the forest department, reported DownToEarth.

In March 2017, Ravi Sidddaiah (25) suspected to be a poacher was shot dead by forest personnel on the fringes of the reserve forest in Kanakapura, Ramanagaram district, Karnataka. The victim’s family members claimed that the men had gone in search of their goats which strayed into the forest and the forest guards mistook them for poachers and fired at them, reported Deccan Herald.

In September 2020, Ajit Sauria, 28, a worker of the Mohorgong-Gulma tea estate near Sukna, in West Bengal went in search of his cow in the tea garden and a team of forest guards patrolling shot at him. He died on the way to the hospital, reported The Telegraph.



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