DFO detained for nabbing ‘smugglers’

Mahendranagar, Jan 23:

Instead of being rewarded, the district forest officer of Darchula who nabbed two persons involved in rhino horn smuggling got himself arrested by the police last evening for no fault of him.

DFO Ramesh Chand, head of a joint mission of the park and forest office of Darchula, had arrested two suspected smugglers — Man Bahadur Kunwar (28) of Darchula and Rabindra Aidi (24) — from Rajdhani hotel in Mahendranagar. He was, in turn, arrested by a police team led by SP Madhav Nepal last evening on the charge of abduction.

After the drama, it is suspected that local police administration might have involved in the smuggling. A high-level forest ministry official said the drama was staged to set the smugglers free as both of them were local Maoist leaders.

Aidi is central secretariat member of the Tharuwan State Committee while Kunwar is a Maoist combatant of the Kailali-based seventh division. The arrested persons are now in the custody of the park authorities while their three accomplices managed to evade arrest.

Meanwhile, DFO Chand said he was unexpectedly arrested and was treated like a criminal. Chand had to spend four hours in police custody before being released at 10:00 pm last night before Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Kiran Gurung intervened for his release.

DFO of Baitadi Debes Mani Tripathi accused the police of involvement in the smuggling for personal benefits. “We have evidence of high-level police officials’ involvement in smuggling of rhino horns and animal hides.”

Meanwhile, SP Madhav Nepal was out of contact and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Forest Minister Gurung told The Himalayan Times that the police action had discouraged honest forest officials.

Meanwhile, director of regional forestry office Dhangadhi, Govinda Kafle arrived in ahendranagar today for necessary investigation.

According to the source, chief district officer Himnath Dawadi complained that he was kept in the dark about the arrest of the smugglers.

However, the forest act has granted the forest officials the authority to act on their own without informing any other authority while arresting or punishing people involved in cases related to forest and wildlife.