Dalit shot dead by Madhya Pradesh forest staff after squabble over water
BHOPAL: A Dalit was shot dead, allegedly by a forest ranger, in MP’s Shivpuri during an altercation between his family and foresters over filling of water from a hand pump on Sunday. A case has been registered against 14 forest department personnel, including a woman, under IPC and SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
The victim, 35-year-old Madan Balmiki, lived in Fatehpur village, about 55km from Shivpuri town. His family alleges that forest personnel humiliated them when they were drawing water from a tubewell near the Fatehpur outpost. It triggered an altercation during which Madan was shot dead.
The forest department, on the other hand, claims stones were thrown at them during an antiencroachment drive and Madan was shot when some villagers were trying to snatch a gun. TI of Karera police station Rakesh Sharma said they are trying to arrest the 14 accused forest employees, who fled after the incident.
Sources say Madan’s wife and cousin were washing utensils at the hand pump near Fatehpur forest checkpost when ranger Suresh Sharma came to fill his waterbottle and a few drops of water spilled on him. He got angry and hurled casteist remarks at them, says the FIR. Madan’s wife alleges in her complaint: “My daughter ran over and told him not to abuse us. But a woman forester dragged her by the hair and slapped her. When my husband came running to intervene, he was shot dead.”
The Forest department tried to defend its personnel, claiming that Madan was shot dead as villagers tried to snatch the gun of a forest guard who was part of the anti-encroachment squad. Shivpuri SP Rajesh Singh Chandel told TOI that there was no “caste issue” in this incident, as Madan and two of those booked in the casebelong to the same community. “Madan’s father is also a forest guard. Forest employees claim they had to fire after villagers started pelting stones at them, but the family members of the deceased claim otherwise,” Chandel said. Villagers staged a protest outside Karera police station, following which a murder case under IPC 302 was registered against seven people, including ranger Suresh Sharma. Opposition BJP and BSP targeted the government, alleging that atrocities against Dalits have risen in the past year. BSP says it will submit a memorandum to the district collector for action against the forest officials.
The MP forest department started issuing firearms to its staff in 1985. Following controversy, the forest department restricted distribution of revolvers only to rangers posted in sensitive zones, but other forest staff can be armed with .315 rifles, 12-bore guns and pumpaction shotguns. Forest officials maintain they have powers of protection under Section 197 CrPC, like any government officer, while discharging their duty. They point to at a home department circular (June 11, 1996) which orders police not to initiate criminal proceedings against forest employees or officials named in FIRs, unless use of firearms is proven “unnecessary and unwarranted” in a magisterial inquiry. On Monday, the Shivpuri SP said this circular doesn’t apply in this case as there was no forest near where scene of firing.
Courtesy : TNN