Forest officials fight over seizure of illicit timber

A tussle between employees of Forest Protection Force and Forest department over seizure of illicit timber in Handwara division of Kupwara district has turned ugly.

The employees of Forest Protection Force (FPF) held a protest demonstration in their Handwara office and threatened indefinite strike till action is not initiated against the forest officials for allegedly manhandling them.

The employees of forest department also held protests on Tuesday against the FPF employees accusing them of taking bribe and not performing their duty as per the rules.   

The incident came fore when employees of FPF on 30 June seized illicit timber loaded in a hand card near ITI Gonipora Handwara. “The smugglers taking advantage of darkness fled from the spot while observing the movement of FPF party,” said an employee of FPF division Handwara.  

He said that in the morning forest field staff was immediately contacted for providing Form-25 to complete the formalities because of the transfer of the forester who was deputed to this unit for providing Form-25. “Due to the delay by the concerned forest staff in providing the form, instantly the employees contacted FPF control room Handwara,” reads the report of FPF.

“On Monday the concerned official was again contacted to provide Form-25 for further proceedings. Instead of providing the form the concerned beat officer namely Gulbaz Ahmad Shiekh forcibly entered in the office of FPF at 02:15 pm along with sufficient man power of forest range Handwara, assaulted, abused, attacked and manhandled the Assistant Director FPF Nazir Ahmad Sheikh and other staff present there and interrupted the government official from working,” the report further reads.

“After this incident they rushed to FPF control room Handwara and snatched the seized stock and hand cart. SHO of police station Handwara has been asked by the concerned Assistant Director of FPF for appropriate action and lodging of FIR against the erring officials,” the report reads. 

Two applications have been received by the police station Handwara from both FPF and forest officials to lodge FIR. “The FIR has been lodged against the forest officials on one application from FPF officials,” said a police officer in police station Handwara.

The protesting employees of FPF said that there should be a stern action against the erring officials of forest department. “It is shameful that employees are being assaulted by forest employees. We will hit roads if action against accused persons is not initiated,” said the protesting employees who continued their strike on day second.

An independent enquiry with three member committee has been initiated into the matter to figure out the facts of the tussle. “The members will submit the report by Friday for appropriate action,” said deputy director FPF Handwara division Himayun Kabir.