A six-member Madhya Pradesh cheetah tracking team that was looking to locate Asha, one of the Namibian cheetahs brought to India on September 17, 2022, were attacked by villagers, who mistook them for a band of dacoits, in Burakheda village in Sheopur division on Thursday night, forest officials said. Four members of the team have been injured and are recuperating in hospital.
Sheopur divisional forest officer (DFO) Prakash Verma said that on the basis of a GPS tracker on Asha, the six-member team had reached the village of Burakheda late on Thursday night. “The villagers mistook them for dacoits and cattle thieves. They fired at them to shoo the team away. When the team, which did not know they were the target of ire, continued their tracking operation in the area, the villagers attacked them.”
Forest officials said that villagers caught and assaulted four members of the team, and also pelted stones at them. “The team members were wearing khakhi dungarees that is often associated with dacoits, and their vehicles were damaged as well The four employees of the forest department are admitted at a community health centre in Pohri. They are not critical,” the official said.
Police have registered a first information report (FIR) under Section 353 (assault and deter public servant from discharging of their duties) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against 12 unidentified people.
A forest guard, requesting anonymity, said, “The state government claims that locals have been made aware about cheetah project but even within a 20km radius, these attacks are taking place. The forest team tried to identify themselves but to no avail. The state government needs to ramp up its awareness drive, and make arrangements for the safety and security of the tracking teams.”