An operation has been launched to catch 10 people, including seven women, who allegedly led a mob that destroyed a newly-constructed anti-poaching camp in India’s easternmost tiger reserve.
Forest officials in Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district have often been in conflict with the Yobin community living in and around the 1,985 sq km Namdapha National Park and Tiger Reserve.
On June 5, ahead of an official programme to observe World Environment Day, some 150 people attacked the Burma Nallah camp of the Forest Department located in the 40th Mile area along the Miao-Vijaynagar Road.
According to an FIR lodged at the Miao police station, 10 people were primarily behind the attack, which was led by Atasa Yobin of Gandhigram. Ngwazosa Yobin was named as the mastermind who had allegedly planned the attack at a meeting held in Gandhigram on June 4.
The Indian Penal Code Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 447 (criminal trespass), 427 (mischief), 392 (robbery), 186 (voluntarily obstructing any public servant in the discharge of his public functions) and 506 (criminal intimidation) were slapped against the attackers.
The FIR said the attackers first disconnected the wireless telegraphy set, snatched the mobile phones of the Forest personnel and destroyed other properties, including a watch tower.
“The group threatened the staff with dire consequences if they do not vacate the premises immediately. Subsequently, the staff fled the place fearing for their lives,” the FIR read.
In 2022, the Namdapha authorities evicted the Yobin settlers from the 40th Mile area. Park officials said the boundary of the tiger reserve stretches up to the 77th Mile area along the Miao-Vijaynagar Road.
But the Yobins claim the Forest Department “illegally encroached upon” their ancestral, community land in the name of conserving Namdapha.
While the Changlang police were searching for him, Ngwazosa Yobin told journalists in the State’s capital Itanagar on Thursday evening (June 8) that the Namdapha authorities had included the community land within the area of the park.
“The Department occupied an area extending up to 80 miles without the consent of local villagers. The encroachment has brought at least eight Yobin villages under the purview of the Namdapha Tiger Reserve,” Ngwazosa, the president of the Yobin Welfare Society said.
Urging the government to intervene in the “long-standing boundary dispute” between the Forest Department and the Yobin community, the Yobin Welfare Society said action should not be taken against the villagers involved in the Burma Nallah violence on June 5.