The Odisha Police have detained as many as ten forest personnel including three officials in connection with an alleged custodial death of a 60-year-old man during interrogation in connection with a case of tusker poaching in Cuttack district.
Those detained included two assistant conservators of forest rank and a forest range officer posted in Cuttack forest division of the State. As the victim, identified as Dhaneswar Behera, died in the custody of Forest Department, due procedure is being adhered to as part of the investigation.
If the prima facie suspected custodial death is established, those detained will be arrested and booked under Indian Penal Code (IPC) section-302 (murder), said a senior police official.
Carcass of a bullet-ridden de-tusked male elephant had been retrieved from Hipinda Reserve forest under Badamba range on 31 January. Behera, a resident of Satagochhia village, had been taken into custody by forest personnel on Sunday as the principal suspect of the elephant poaching case.
Meanwhile, agitated locals have blocked the nearby State Highway-65, paralyzing vehicular traffic. The agitating people alleged that the Behera was brutally assaulted in forest custody, resulting in his death. Their principal demands included among other things the arrest of the forest personnel on murder charge and payment of Rs 50 lakh ex-gratia compensation to the next of kin of the deceased person.
The uninterrupted sequence of death goes unabated in Athagarh in the forest division, regarded as a congenial habitat for jumbos, and has reported seventh death of elephants since June last.