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Protest over worker’s death

Jorhat, Feb. 12: Workers of Duklangia tea estate near the Gibbon wildlife sanctuary under Mariani police station here today allegedly manhandled a forest department official and shouted slogans against the team accompanying him, after a worker of the garden was trampled to death by elephants in the wee hours.

The victim has been identified as Kumar Chowra, 37, a chowkidar of the garden.

Forest department sources said Kumar, along with five other workers of the estate, was on duty at the water pump station at section 1 of Hatigarh division of the garden last night and all of them were warming themselves near a fire.

Sources, quoting eyewitnesses, said around 2am, four of them went to check the pipes.

Another person, Vinod, was with Chowra when a group of three elephants, including a calf, emerged from the nearby sanctuary.

Vinod was taken by surprise when the calf’s trunk accidentally touched him and he fled from the area.

However, Kumar did not get time to react and trampled by the calf, he died instantly.

Sources said the calf might have become nervous at the presence of humans and trampled Chowra.

The workers misbehaved with a forest team that had gone to the spot where Chowra’s body was lying, led by Mariani range officer D. Medhi.

Sources said a section of the crowd manhandled Medhi.

The labourers blamed the forest staff for the death and for reaching the spot “very late”.

However, a police team led by Mariani officer-in-charge P.K. Das brought the situation under control.

Blaming the garden management for the situation, Medhi said the management of the garden had come to know about the incident around 3am, but did not inform the forest department or the police.

Denying negligence on part of the forest staff, Medhi said a team of nearly seven persons regularly patrolled the surrounding villages and garden areas from dusk to dawn. The team often has to chase the herd of elephants that moves out to far-flung areas.

Mariani police station officer-in-charge, P.K. Das, added that the police were not immediately informed about the incident by the garden management. A worker informed him over phone around 6.30am.

Divisional forest officer (Jorhat) N.K. Malakar, who later visited the garden, said he, too, was informed by the police about the incident and not by the garden management.

Attempts to contact a garden official in this regard failed.

On Sunday night, a group of nearly 10 elephants belonging to the same herd had strayed out from the forest and entered Cinnamara tea garden on the outskirts here and destroyed three houses.

In November 2010, two youths who were riding a motorbike inside the garden were killed in a similar way by elephants of the same herd.