custodial death
Representative image.

A forest department office in western Assam’s Chirang district came under fire from locals on Sunday after a person died in mysterious condition last night in the custody of the forest department.

Personnel of forest range office at Panbari in Chirang district picked up Nikhil Mondol, 32,  a small trader, from his residence at No 1 Bishnupur in the district on Saturday morning at about 9-30am on the charge of smuggling timber and  brought to their office.  No 1 Bishnupur is 7 km from Panbari.

According to Nikhil’s family, the forest personnel had demanded Rs 5 lakh for Nikhil’s release. Nikhil’s family somehow managed Rs one lakh and approached the forest office the same day for Nikhil’s release.

But the forest personnel had neither accepted the amount nor released Nikhil and told his family to come next morning (Sunday morning) for his release.

Today (Sunday) in the morning at around 6-30 am police from Panbari Police Station reached Nikhil’s residence and picked up his two brothers and brought them to the forest office.   They were later sent to Kajalgaon Civil hospital, which is 44 km from Panbari, with Nikhil’s body for post mortem.

Following the incident residents of Nikhil’s village and locals of Panbari gathered in front of the forest office and demanded punishment to the forest personnel who allegedly killed Nikhil in their custody.

When contacted, Chirang Superintendent of Police Yubraj, said, “It is a matter of probe to ascertain whether it was a case of suicide or homicide”.

Family members had alleged that Nikhil died due to severe physical torture inflicted by forest personnel on him last night. The family even denied the involvement of Nikhil in timber smuggling.

Nikhil is survived by his 4-year old son, wife, five brothers and mother. Nikhil’s family lodged a complaint with Panbari Police Station in this connection.

As per Chirang District Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Raju Brahma, Panbari forest range office falls under the jurisdiction of Manas National Park. HK Sharma, the field director of the national park, was not available for comment as his mobile was switched off.

Tejesh Tripathy

Tejas Tripathy is Northeast Now Correspondent in Bongaigaon. He can be reached at: tejeshmedia@gmail.com

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