Police officer, forest staff hurt as villagers protest eviction

Correspondent IMPHAL, Apr 24 | Publish Date: 4/24/2020 9:09:16 AM IST

A police officer and some staffs of state forest department sustained injuries in stone pelting by villagers protesting against eviction at a reserved forest area in Imphal amid the lockdown to check spread of COVID-19 on Friday.

Reports alleged that the villagers retaliated to police firing tear gas shells to disperse villagers who protested against  eviction of three houses constructed illegally in the reserved forest area.

While the forest officials and police dismanted the three houses, residents of Macheng village agitated to stop the eviction defying police orders.

When they refused to retreat despite repeated warning, police fired some rounds of tear gas shell in a bid to disperse them. The protestors however retaliated with stones and sling shots, injuring a police officer and some staffs of the forest department. The police officer was allegedly hit by a slingshot.

According to forest officials, the three houses were constructed at Macheng village at Mantripukhri area under Langol Reserved Forest area in Imphal West district.

The construction of the houses was suspended after a regular patrolling team of the Central Forest Division stopped the unauthorised construction detected around a month ago.

However, taking advantage of the lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic and while the frontline staffs were fully engaged in controlling and fighting forest fires at different places, the encroachers re-started the construction. On April 21, 2020, the concerned forest department served a notice to the owners of the houses to remove the structures failing which eviction will follow by April 24.

Encroachment, including illegal constructions inside the reserved forests, violates provisions of Indian Forest Act, 1972, Manipur Forest Rules, 1971 and instructions issued by the Central government.

In addition, it amounts to damage to government property under Indian Penal Code. Besides evictions, the encroachers are liable to punishments with imprisonment or fine or with both, a forest officer maintained.

He added that the encroachers were also liable to pay compensation for damage to the forest and all the material deposited on the land being encroached upon is also liable to be forfeited.

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