Alipurduar, April 11: A 17-year-old boy was killed by an elephant in a tea garden located adjacent to Dyna forest last night, triggering a protest by the local people who gheraoed forest officials for 16 hours and vandalised the department’s vehicles and a camp.
The people of Bamondanga tea estate in Nagrakata block went on the rampage primarily because the foresters had allegedly reached the spot late after Class X student Rustam Bara’s death. But their main grouse was that the guards did not patrol the garden regularly though elephants often damage huts and injured residents.
Rustam, a resident of the garden area coincidentally called Hati Line, was going to the tea estate factory with dinner for his father when he was attacked by a tusker.
“The incident happened around 8pm last night. It was raining. Rustam was walking to the garden factory when he came across a tusker. The boy started running and he was chased by the animal for 50m. The tusker lifted Rustam by the trunk and flung him onto the ground. The animal then stamped on the boy and he died,” said a garden resident.
Nagrakata police were informed about the incident and reached the spot.
“The villagers became annoyed as the forest officers were late to reach the spot. When more than 30 foresters led by Khunia and Dyna range officers arrived three hours late, the local people started protesting,” said Amit P. Javalgi, the superintendent of police, Jalpaiguri.
The range officer announced that the victim’s family would be paid compensation. The villagers didn’t allow the police to take the body away and asked the foresters why they had reached the spot so late.
“Elephants from the nearby Dyna forest enter the garden at night quite frequently and destroy huts. The animals sometimes attack the residents also. We have been demanding that the foresters increase the number of patrols in the garden and set up a temporary camp to thwart elephant attacks. The villagers were angry particularly because no compensation was given for houses destroyed by elephants recently,” said another villager.
A scuffle broke out between the residents, numbering more than 100, and the forest guards. The villagers damaged two forest vehicles and ransacked the nearby Nathua forest camp also.
“As the mob went on the rampage, the police tried to calm the situation. The villagers initially tried to set the Nathua camp on fire, but were prevented from doing so by the police. The forest guards were gheraoed for around 16 hours,” said the villager.
The foresters were set free around 2pm today when Nagrakata MLA Joseph Munda reached the garden and held talks with the people. “The villagers should be allowed to patrol the forest along with guards to drive away the elephants. The ex-gratia for the kin of those who are killed by animals should be increased from the current amount of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh,” the MLA said. Khunia range officer Tarun Mahalanobish denied the charge that his force had reached the garden late. “We reached the spot about 9pm. We will lodge a complaint with police,” he said.
Rustam’s body was taken away for post-mortem this afternoon. He is survived by his parents and an elder brother.