Farmers clash with forest staff over jumbo presence

Sankar, a resident of Sorakapatti said, “We had called the forest staff to chase away the elephants, but they just watched as the elephants were eating paddy crop.
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)

DHARMAPURI: Five people were injured after a section of farmers from Sorakapatti in Veppillaipatti clashed with staff from the Palacode forest range during a protest on Monday over the delay in chasing away two elephants that were raiding crops in the village.

In the early hours of Monday, two adult elephants entered farmlands near Sorakkapatti and villagers notified the Palacode forest range office and a team of eight staff arrived to chase the elephant. Even  as forest team was observing the movement of the elephants, the villagers grew impatient and lashed out at the forest staff. The Panchayat president Periyasamy even attempted to take away firecrackers from the forest staff and set them off to chase away the animals. This led to an argument and later an altercation took place, sources said.

Sankar, a resident of Sorakapatti said, “We had called the forest staff to chase away the elephants, but they just watched as the elephants were eating paddy crop. Most of the people were upset and urged the forest staff to chase away the elephant. But the forest staff refused, stating that the elephants will leave on their own after they have their fill. This enraged the farmers, the panchayat president Periyasamy requested the forest staff for fireworks to drive away the elephants, but this request was refused. This led to an argument and soon an altercation took place.” The Panchayat president and one other were injured in the altercation, they said.

Forest Ranger Natraj said, “For the past 90 days we have been chasing elephants away from fields. On Monday, we dispatched eight forest staff including a forester to lead the elephant driver. While our team was observing the situation, the panchayat president urged our team to burst firecrackers. If we had burst the fireworks without planning, the animals would have got startled and charged at the villagers. So our guard stopped the farmers and he was attacked. To escape from the panchayat president, the guard pushed aside the villagers and escaped.”

Shortly after, another forest staff who was several hundred meters away and unaware of the situation was surrounded by the villagers and beaten. A forester who led the team went to pacify the villagers was also attacked, he said.

Natraj added, “We were just enforcing our duties, we need the residents’ cooperation to drive away the elephants. But here, we did not receive any cooperation and we were also not allowed to perform our duties. Three of our staff were injured by the villagers instead. An elephant drive is complicated and requires proper planning, we hope the people can understand this and express their support.”

Police arrived on the scene and pacified the villagers. Two persons, including panchayat president Periyasamy were hospitalized . Police added that three forest staff received treatment and were discharged.

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