the daily star
18/06/2011 - The gang of illegal loggers could not but laugh when three forest officials equipped with sticks challenged them on a canal under Patkostha forest camp deep in the Sundarbans.
"Hush! Don't even utter a word," commanded the leader of the 13-member heavily armed gang. Tying up the foresters at gunpoint, they felled trees until their three boats were full of logs.
Before leaving, the gang locked the forest officials in the hull of the latter's boat and released the boat on the canal. They floated for five hours until they were rescued by fishermen.
...arms were withdrawn from the forest stations deep in the Sundarbans between 2006 and 2007. Fifteen of 72 stations are operating without any firearms in Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat.
The policy was adopted after a group of robbers stormed a forest office and looted its arms in 2006.
..The unarmed officials are now “protecting” the forest from 10 major gangs of about 300 robbers equipped with light machine guns, AK-47, sophisticated pistols, revolvers and walkie-talkies.
Some fortunate foresters, who have official arms, confront these gangs with old-fashioned .303 and Chinese rifles and short-range guns.
Lengthy judicial process, alleged non-cooperation from police, and a nexus of criminals, dishonest foresters, journalists and law enforcers also add to the despair of the forest officials.
As a result, they are left with no other choices but living in good terms with robbers and illegal loggers.
"We've an understanding with robbers and illegal loggers. If confronted, we show our departmental flag. They won't harm us then. Actually, they respect us in a way," said the rescued forester.
In reality, the foresters follow the rules of the criminals. Deep in the Sundarbans it has become a tradition that robbers use forest stations as a resting place while the foresters cook for them.