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‘Curious’ onlooker trampled to death

Siliguri, July 13: A lone tusker, which had strayed out of a forest near Jalpaiguri town today, trampled to death one man and injured another who came in its way, before around 2,000 villagers confined the animal to a jute field for more than 10 hours.

At first, torrential rain and the presence of so many people prevented forest staff from rescuing the animal. However, around 5.30pm, four squads of the forest department drove the elephant back towards the Baikunthapur range, from where it had come out. A force from the Rajganj police had been brought to control the crowd and make way for the elephant. The members of the elephant squads followed the animal as it went back, damaging two houses on the way.

The villagers blocked NH31 (D), which connects Siliguri to Jalpaiguri, for nearly an hour from 8am to protest against the attack of the marauding elephant.

According to officials of the Baikunthapur division, the elephant had strayed into the Panga Battala area, 14km from the forest and 35km from here, this morning. The presence of the tusker triggered a panic with villagers warning each other to stay away from it path.

“It was spotted around 6.30am. I saw it myself, looming large over the village road. It went around the village. I warned many people against coming on the animal’s way. Everybody ran to take shelter,” said Swapan Roy, a resident of the area.

But people watched in horror as Annadhar Roy, who lives in Dabrapara, suddenly went too close to the animal.

“It was curiosity that killed him. He went very near. The elephant took him up by the tusk, hurled him down and trampled him. He died on the spot. We could do nothing,” said Atul Burman, an eyewitness. The body has been sent to Jalpaiguri district hospital for postmortem

The tusker also injured a passer-by who fell down when the animal brushed past him while fleeing into the jute field. It was around 7.30pm and many people beat on tin cans and surrounded the plot of land, making it impossible for the animal to go back to the forest.

“We could do nothing till the evening. It was raining heavily and around 2,000 people standing on the fringes of the field,” said N.N. Sengupta, the range officer of Belakoba.

Finally, around 5.30pm, the animal went back towards Baikunthapur. “More than 50 forest staff had been employed for the job. We had sent elephant squads from Binnaguri, Malbazar, Khunia and Jalpaiguri (headquarters),” said Kalyan Das, the divisional forest officer (wildlife) of Jalpaiguri.

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