A forest range office was allegedly ransacked by villagers in the presence of local Trinamul leaders at the Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTR) in Alipurduar on Tuesday during a demonstration to protest the detention of a local youth found in the reserve area on Monday evening.
Trinamul leaders called it a “spontaneous outburst” of villagers.
Sources said on Monday evening, some daily-wage workers engaged by the state forest department were patrolling the fringes of the East Rajabhatkhawa range office under BTR west division when they spotted Upen Rava of Gadadhar forest village. Upen was brought to the range office and asked what he was doing in the reserve area in the evening.
As news spread, some villagers reached the range office at 9.30pm and resorted to protests. They got Upen out of the range office and took him home. On Tuesday morning, some villagers and local Trinamul leaders reached the range office to meet foresters on the issue. Around 7am, some turned violent and damaged office furniture, CCTV cameras and window panes. Some 100 villagers kept forest staff confined, demanding the transfer of those who had caught Upen.
“Upen had gone for fishing and yet was taken to the range office and accused of smuggling timber,” said Amir Rava, a Trinamul leader. On the ransacking of the office, Manoj Agarwal, another Trinamul leader, said it was a “spontaneous reaction of people” as an innocent youth was harassed.
Ranjan Talukdar, a forest official of BTR, spoke with Trinamul leaders and persuaded them to withdraw the protests.
Subhankar Sengupta, BTR field director, did not comment on the violence. “All we want to say is that in the evening no one goes to the forest to catch fish,” he said.