Bullet-riddled body of youth recovered from Odisha’s Similipal Forest; family cries foul

Baripada: The body of a local youth gunned down in Odisha’s Similipal Forest in Mayurbhanj district was recovered today. However, the deceased’s family blamed the forest department for the death.

The incident was reported from Bangiriposi police limits under Talabandha range and the deceased has been identified as 40-year-old Jagannath Hembram, who belonged to Burudi village of Brahmangaon panchayat under Talabandha range.

“Our son has been shot dead by some Forest personnel,” the bereaved family alleged.

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“An innocent tribal youth was killed by the department for no reason. I demand an independent inquiry into the untimely death of my husband,” Jagannath’s wife Jhana Hembram rued.

According to a source, Jagannath was a local herdsman and he had gone a distance of about a kilometer into the Similipal sanctuary on Wednesday afternoon along with his employer to search for a missing buffalo. The tribal youth faced a bullet attack when both were returning back home.

Allegedly, the duo was opened fire by a team of forest personnel suspecting them to be poachers. However, Jagannath sustained bullet injuries on his elbow and chest in the incident and he died on the spot. Later, the team fled from the spot leaving the body of Jagannath in the forest.

The Forest department was tipped off yesterday that a group of local poachers had entered Similipal sanctuary. Swinging into action, the team led by Talabandha ranger Shailendra Kumar Das raided the forest in search of the supposed poachers.

Meanwhile, the Forest department refuted the allegation saying it to be entirely baseless.

“After seeing the forest personnel, the suspected poachers got scared and left the place leaving behind their firearms, arrows and bows, which have been seized by the team. We have not at all shot at the poachers,” Talabandha ranger Das asserted.

The bullet-riddled body of the youth found in Talabandha forest under mysterious circumstances has given rise to suspicion, many locals expressed.

“We have never seen Jagannath had ever hunted in the past days,” Brahmangaon sarpanch said.

“Vindictively, a tribal youth was shot dead by the Forest department. If Mayurbhanj Superintendent of Police (SP) Battula Gangadhar and Collector Vineet Bhardwaj will not carry out a proper inquiry, then the tribal outfits of the district will resort to agitations and stage roadblocks. We will also call for a Bandh,” BJP national member Sugda Murmu expressed.

On the other hand, the shot-down incident has triggered tension in nearby villages. Keeping in mind the palpable tension prevalent in the area, two platoons of force have been deployed to control the situation and to avert any untoward law and order problem.

Besides, acting on a directive of the Mayurbhanj SP, a team of police comprising SDPO Prakash James, local police station IIC Kamalakanta Das, including a scientific team and tehsildar Madhab Chandra Birua reached the spot and seized the body of Jagannath and sent it to Pandit Raghunath Murmu Medical College and Hospital (PRMMCH) in Baripada for post-mortem.

Police have initiated a probe in connection with Jagannath’s death at the firing spot. The buffalo owner, who was with Jagannath on the intervening day, has been detained by police.

It is pertinent to mention, forest guard Bimal Kumar Jena previously working in Baunsakhala beat house under Pithabata range in Similipal forest was gunned down by some poachers on May 22.

Following this, a joint team comprising forest and local police personnel arrested seven poachers, who hail from Badagaon village, and forwarded them to court.

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