Three cops killed in late-night encounter with blackbuck poachers in MP

By Express News Service

BHOPAL: Three Madhya Pradesh police personnel, including a sub inspector, lost their lives in a gun battle with animal poachers in Guna district of Madhya Pradesh on Friday-Saturday intervening night.

The three cops were identified as sub inspector Raj Kumar Jatav, head constable Neeraj Bhargava and constable Santram Meena. They were killed in an exchange of fire with seven-eight armed animal poachers at around 2.45 am in the Aron area. A driver of the police vehicle was hurt in the incident but is now stated to be out of danger.

One of the poachers identified as Naushad, who was possibly injured in the retaliatory police firing, was found dead in his native village Bidhoria, around 4 km from the spot of the encounter in the morning. Later, in the evening, another poacher identified as Shahzad was gunned down by the police in an encounter in the dense Aron forests.

According to the SP-Guna district Rajeev Mishra, three to four police parties were sent to the spot, following information about the presence of animal poachers there. Seeing the police teams surround them from all directions, the animal poachers, who came on four mobikes, tried to flee by opening indiscriminate fire on cops.

“The cops also retaliated, but three of our personnel lost their lives. The poachers managed to flee along with a police service rifle. Remains of poached blackbucks and a peacock were seized from the spot,” Mishra said.

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MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan chaired a high-level emergency meeting following the incident in the morning after which he announced martyr status for the three deceased cops. He further announced Rs 1 crore each and a government job for each of the three bereaved families in Ashok Nagar, Guna and Sheopur districts.

The CM also ordered the immediate removal of IG-Gwalior Zone Anil Sharma since he had reached the crime spot in Guna district late. While Sharma has been posted as IG at the state PHQ in Bhopal, ADG-SAF D Srinivas Verna will be now posted as ADG-Gwalior Zone.

Importantly, this is perhaps the first time that cops have been killed in MP in an operation against animal poachers.

According to informed sources, the 200 km radius of Berasia (Bhopal) is notorious for the presence of the timber mafia and for animal poaching (particularly poaching of blue bull Neelgai), but such a killing of cops has never happened in the past.

The forests spanning from Berasia (Bhopal) to Lateri and Sironj in Vidisha and Aron in Guna are replete with blackbucks. Surprisingly, while the CM acted against the IG Gwalior Zone for being late in arriving at the spot, no action was taken against the SP-Guna and local DFO, who are primarily responsible for putting a leash on animal poaching.

Meanwhile, bulldozing of the houses (built by encroaching land) of the absconding accused in Bidhoria village has begun. At least four out of the seven accused, including the slain Naushad, belonged to a particular community living in Bidhoria village.

A hunt is on to nab the absconders.

Targeting the CM and his government over the killing of the three cops, the state Congress chief Kamal Nath took to Twitter, saying that the government has failed to maintain law and order in the state.

“What happened to the CM’s much-hyped announcement of burying the mafia under the ground. Had it really happened, then our brave cops wouldn’t have lost lives today against the forest mafia,” Nath tweeted.

Leader of Opposition Dr Govind Singh demanded state home minister Narottam Mishra’s resignation.