Udupi (TOI): The sand mafia in Udupi district allegedly attacked a team of officials headed by the Udupi deputy commissioner on Sunday night for cracking down on its activities. Police arrested 13 persons, seven of them for allegedly assaulting the team.
According to Udupi DC Priyanka Francis, she decided to tackle the mafia after getting first-hand information about their activities in Kundapur area. She, along with Shilpa Nag, assistant commissioner of Kundapur, Kantha Raju, village assistant, and gunman Prithviraj Jogi, planned a surprise spot check to such areas late Sunday night. At Halnad, she detected illegal sand mining and with the help of Kundapur police got six of seven persons arrested. One man managed to flee.
However, at Kandlur near Kundapur, the DC's team faced a violent mob which not only threatened them but manhandled the DC's gunman and attacked the accountant. The DC lodged a complaint at Udupi police station at 1am Monday.
Priyanka said: "Over the past few weeks, I've been getting calls about illegal sand mining in different spots. On Saturday, a regular caller complained that the district administration had not taken action despite several tip-offs. The caller said: 'Since you have not taken action, this is my last call. I will never complain again'. As the call seemed genuine, I decided to conduct a surprise raid on Sunday night and went in an unofficial vehicle to the spot."
After the Halnad arrests, the team proceeded towards Kandlur. Before reaching the spot, she noticed a few two-wheelers following her car. To her surprise, there was a mob of about 50 persons at Kandlur which allegedly manhandled the gunman and attacked Shilpa Nag's husband and the accountant.
The DC sensed the situation going out of control and directed the driver to return to Udupi. After going for a couple of kilometres, they realised the VA was not with them. Taking the help of beat police, they returned only to find him badly assaulted. "If we had not reached on time, we may have lost him,'' said Priyanka, adding that the accountant was not ready to file a police complaint as the mob had threatened him of dire consequences.
Asked why she had gone without a police escort, Priyanka said news about the raid could have been leaked. "I wanted to know what was happening and took the risk. Even though the incident took place in Kundapur, we didn't want the mob to follow us and that's why we did not stop at Kundapur police station. Instead, I filed the case in Udupi town station,'' she added.
She added that she had an audio clip of the incident and Shilpa Nag's husband had taken a few pictures of the mob. "Most of the people were locals. This is not the first time such a thing is happening. Earlier, when a tahsildar visited them, a mob forced officials to back down,'' she said.
She added: "These attacks won't stop us from taking action against illegal activities. We won't bow down to threats and goons cannot challenge the government. In future, raids will be conducted with tight security and action will be taken against people involved in such activities.''
Meanwhile, one mob member called Bhaskara, has been hospitalised and has reportedly filed a counter-complaint that the DC's team attacked him. "They were more than 50 people and we were only five. How could we attack them?'' asked Priyanka.
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