Friday, 1 July, 2022
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Now Maharashtra IFS officer is attacked by ‘encroachers’, says it was like staring at death

IFS officer was attacked at a Mumbai national park where she had gone for inspection. This come days after IFS officer was assaulted in Telangana.

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New Delhi: Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Jayoti Banerjee, who was attacked Tuesday by a mob at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in Mumbai where she had gone to inspect the situation after extreme water-logging in the area, said she would have been lynched and that it was a “near-death” situation.

Banerjee, a 2003-batch IFS officer of the Maharashtra cadre, who is the acting field director of the SGNP, had gone to the site on “humanitarian grounds” as the area witnessed extreme water-logging and flooding. Mumbai recorded the heaviest July rainfall since 2005 Tuesday.

Banerjee told ThePrint the wall of a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) reservoir had collapsed on the huts of those living in the slums in the area, which belongs to the forest department. The huts had encroached on the government land.

“There was a lot of damage in the area due to flooding…Walls were hanging precariously, and people’s lives were in danger,” Banerjee said. “We went there on humanitarian grounds…(but) we had no idea that the situation would unfold this way.”


Also read: As lynchings increase, Modi govt dawdles on central law that SC wanted a year ago


‘A near-death situation’

According to Banerjee, when she and her team were carrying out inspection, a group of miscreants came in and started abusing them.

“When this happened, we thought there is no point responding to them, and (we) just started walking briskly…But soon enough, they started pelting stones at us,” she said. “It was a near-death situation.”

While they were running to save themselves, Banerjee tripped and then one of her staffers pulled her into a hut and locked it from inside. “Still they kept throwing stones at the hut, and we felt we would be lynched,” said the IFS officer.

However, some local residents then stopped the stone-pelters. While Banerjee is learnt to have complained to the police and her higher-ups in the state department, an FIR is yet to be lodged.

She is learned to have urged for strict action against the attackers without which, she said, they would feel emboldened and the morale of the government employees would also go down.

Speaking to ThePrint, Director General of Forest and Special Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Siddhanta Das, said while the ministry is looking into the matter, it is a state subject.

“The lady went to the area on humanitarian grounds…There are many illegal encroachments in the area and the Supreme Court has already ordered evictions in the area,” he said.

“We are looking into the matter and will advise the state government to take necessary actions,” Das added.

‘Lynch-fest against forest officials’

Banerjee said the area around SGNP is particularly dangerous. “We now think that no department can function there without police protection…But (we) didn’t anticipate this kind of violence earlier.”

The attack on Banerjee and her team comes close on the heels of another attack on a forest range officer in Telangana last week.

Criticising both attacks, Banerjee tweeted Wednesday, “Hope lynch-fest season on Forest officials stops. We r only protecting the wellbeing of the forests & people. No other motive or malafide.”

Such incidents, Banerjee told ThePrint, are only increasing. “It is as though a season of getting beaten up…I don’t know if it is a sense of impunity or people are just becoming more belligerent now. I have faced conflict situations earlier as well, but yesterday, it was like staring at death in the eye.

“As officers in the forest department, police, army, etc. we are willing to do whatever is required of us in the line of our duty, but people should also understand that,” she added.


Also read: No matter what Modi says, Jharkhand is now the hub of mob lynching


 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Very unfortunate. If the state does not protect the symbols of its authority, anarchy will follow. The British understood this very well, treated any attack on a public servant with the utmost seriousness.

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