Arrest of 3 Juanga tribals sparks protests

Keonjhar: The arrest of three Juanga tribals including two women in Moragola village under Harichandanpur section of Anandapur forest division in this district on the charges of felling trees has sparked tension among tribals Tuesday.

The arrested persons were identified as Bilas Juang, Tara Juang and Padan Juang. However, the manner in which forest officials arrested the gullible tribals and producing them in court under tight security has surprised many.

While forest officials claim the tribals were arrested on the charge of cutting trees in forest, the latter said they were plucking leafy vegetables. In protest against the arrests, hundreds of Juanga tribals gheraoed Harichandanpur forest section office demanding their release.

Forester Markam Kisku said the three were arrested after they were found cutting trees on Tarini hill in Revana reserve forest. They accused had burnt down 2 hectare of forest cover in the area, he claimed.

The move by forest officials has come under severe flak from residents triggering resentment among them.

They claimed that forest officials arrested the tribals is an attempt to cover up their inability in arresting timber smugglers who are involved in chopping off a large number of Sal trees in Deogaon, Daitari and Bhagamunda areas under the division.

The forest department’s inability in acting tough against timber smugglers has only emboldened the latter and has resulted in denuding the green cover in Revana reserve forest, locals said.

In event of any smuggler getting caught by villagers or timber being seized, forest officials do not even go to the spot to make arrests, they added.

Kalinga Sena’s district unit president Jagabandhu Mohanta alleged while forest authorities have failed in taking action against companies involved in tree felling for the rail line work and digging soil from forests, the arrest of innocent tribals is uncalled for.  PNN