A timber smuggler, who was at large for over a decade with over a dozen cases of illegal felling of green trees and attacking forest officials, was detained under stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) in J&K’s Bhaderwah on Wednesday night.
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Bhaderwah, Chander Shekhar while addressing media said that the timber smuggler Aashiq Hussain Sheikh (52) alias ‘Aashiq Panga’, a resident of Halian locality of Bhaderwah town, was involved in timber smuggling for past two decades and dozens of cases of illegal felling, smuggling of timber and attack on forest officials were registered against him.
“He was several times summoned to Divisional Forest Office Bhaderwah and Range office Neeru but the notorious smuggler also known as ‘Veerappan of Bhaderwah’ remained at large and never turned up, instead he used to intimidate the forest officials,” the DFO said.
“His dossier was prepared and sent to Deputy Commissioner Doda for taking a final call. Yesterday afternoon (May 03), the DC Vishesh Paul Mahajan passed orders under Number 01/DM/Doda/PSA/2023
Dated 03/05/2023 for his detention under the stringent J&K Public Safety Act 1978.”
“Accordingly Police laid multiple nakas in and around Bhadarwah Valley, beside they cordoned off the Halian area and finally arrested the notorious smuggler late in the evening. The accused has been shifted to district jail Bhaderwah,” DFO added.
Chander Shekhar said that some other persons from Tanta and Jaie area of Chirala Range, Rajpura Jatoota area of Bhalessa Range and Thanhala area of Neeru Range were also indulging in timber and MFP smuggling. We have prepared half a dozen dossiers and strict action against them too is on the cards.
“PSA was introduced in J&K in 1978, primarily to tame timber smugglers but it took 44 years till 2022 to book any one under this law from Jammu Province. Masood Ahmed from Thathri area of Bhaderwah Forest Division was the first person detained under PSA,” said DFO adding, “This surely creates a lot of deterrence and after the the detention of Masood last year, 90 percent fever cases of illegal felling were reported from the area. Arrest of Aashiq Panga will go a long way in tightening the noose against habitual offenders.”
District Magistrate Doda, Vishesh Paul Mahajan had imposed a ban under Section 144 CrPC on sale, purchase and use of portable chain saw (Mechanical Cutters) in District Doda.
The decision of the District Magistrate has been welcomed and appreciated by environmentalists and conservationists who have been raising concerns about timber smuggling in the region.