POLO/AHMEDABAD: The unresolved dispute over the rights of tribals to forest land took a violent turn in Gujarat on Wednesday when two tribal men were killed in police firing at Polo in Sabarkantha district.
The district administration claimed the firing was in self-defence after a 500-strong mob armed with bows and arrows attacked a police station.
Tribal activists, however, said cops had taken away 15 tribals accusing them of inciting others to claim forest land. Three tribals were seriously injured in the firing.
Sanja Rupji Balat, 31, and Shailesh Rathod, 27, who were part of the group of tribals living on the fringes of the the Dholwani forest range, were hit by bullets in the firing at Antarsuba police station.
Police said nine forest officials and six cops were injured policemen when tribals clashed with them. District officials said the mob gheraoed the police station. According to the administration, the tribals were asked to disperse, but they didn't obey the orders.
''We are treated as lesser humans by forest and police officials. Fifteen of our men had been taken away by police saying they incited others to claim forest land. After our appeals to release them didn't yield any result, we decided to go to the police station,'' said Kajal Ninama, a tribal activist from Vijaynagar
Gujarat Tribal agitation turns violent, three killed
Tribal agitation in the Vijaynagar Taluka today took a violent turn and two tribal were killed in police firing on the spot while one succumbed to bullet wounds on the way to hospital. The incident took place at the office of the Range Forest Officer where five tribal were brought for felling forest trees. For quite sometime tribal in the region are staking claim on the forest land.
In this incident, Forest officials had picked up five tribal from neighbouring villages around 4 am and brought them to the office of the RFO at Antarsumba, 35 kms from Idar taluka town of the Sabarkantha district. As the news of detention spread, several thousand tribal gheraoed the office.
In the arguments that followed the seize of the office situation turned violent and police opened fire. Two tribal were killed and three were seriously injured. The injured were brought to Civil Hospital here. This happened around 10 am. Local MLA Ashwin Kotwal said that the forest officials should have tried to explain the situation to the crowd alleging that police fired indiscriminately.
In the tense jungles of the area known as polo, tribal in the four days have forcibly occupied around 10 hectares of forest land by chopping off trees and setting afire shrubs and other vegetation. There is a movement going on in the area, a kind of soft naxalism, in which tribal are staking claim on the forest land saying that they were taking away the land which belonged to them.
Government had yesterday transferred the Dholvani range RFO VR Pandav for not being able to handling the problem