Forest loss 'hotspots' bigger than Germany
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Patna: A wood smuggler was killed and burnt to death in the Indian state of Jharkhand by angry villagers who accused him of cutting trees that they considered sacred.

Police said angry tribal villagers raided the house of Sanju Pradhan, 35, located in Simdega district on Tuesday afternoon, dragged him out of the house and then beat him to death before setting his body on fire. The villagers were apparently angry at the man as he continued cutting trees from the forests despite repeated warnings.

Villagers told the local police that the trees planted in a particular place were sacred as per their tribal custom and hence the felling of trees was strictly prohibited. They said they even reported the matter to the forest department and warned the victim against harming the trees, but he did not take their advice seriously.

“The mob first attacked the victim with stones and then beat him with sticks before setting his body on fire after his death on the charges of cutting trees,” local sub-divisional police official David A Dodray told the media on Wednesday. According to the police official, the victim was involved in the smuggling of forest wood which the villagers had objected to earlier.

No arrest has been made so far although the police said a mob of some 500 villagers were allegedly involved in the lynching of the man. This is probably the first such incident from the state when someone was lynched for cutting trees. Jharkhand chief minister Heman Soren has ordered an investigation. “Investigate the case and inform me about the action taken report in this regard,” the chief minister tweeted.

Jharkhand is rich in forests and mineral wealth. Various ethnic groups such as Munda, Oraon, Ho, Santhal, Paharia, Chero, Birjea, Asura and others live in the state and follow varying practices of agro-pastoralism. Traditionally, these indigenous people have symbiotic relationships with forests. Local festivals like Sarhul and Karma are customarily related with worshipping of trees.

Jharkhand has a rich variety of flora and fauna. The forest cover in the state is 23,611.41 sq km which is 29.62 per cent of the state’s geographical area.