Pradeep Pattanayak

In a fresh development in the alleged death of a poacher in Forest department custody in Badamba forest range under Cuttack’s Athgarh division, a person who reportedly was with the victim levelled serious allegations against the ACF, the ranger and other staff of the forest department, accusing them of beating Dhaneswar Behera to death before his eyes.  

Dhaneswar Behera, a resident of Khuntakata Satagochhia village, was picked up by the Forest department officials on Sunday on charges of poaching a tusker and removing its tusks. A day later, he died under mysterious circumstances in the Forest department custody triggering tension in the area.

At a time when the situation is still tense over this alleged custodial death, Rajkishore Pradhan, a resident of Shyamsundarpur, on Tuesday alleged that the ACF, the ranger and other staff beat Dhaneswar with sticks mercilessly before his eyes, leading to his death. 

“The forest department picked the three of us.  They first took us to Huguda forest and then to Khuntuni forest. There the DFO, the ACF, five to six foresters and Badamba ranger thrashed us black and blue. We were beaten up so mercilessly that Dhania (Dhaneswar Behera) died on the spot. They warned us against telling what had happened before anyone. They asked us to tell the villagers that an elephant trampled him (Dhaneswar) to death,” alleged Pradhan. 

Earlier on Monday, as the news of Dhaneswar’s death spread, family members and villagers staged a demonstration at Barsingh Chowk demanding justice and the irate locals set the Banpur beat house on fire. 

On the basis of the complaint lodged by Dhaneswar’s wife, the police have registered an FIR with murder charge against the DFO Athgarh, Range officer Badamba, ACF and other forest department employees.

(Reported by Nilakantha Dora, OTV)