PILIBHIT: An Uttar Pradesh forest department employee has charged Union minister for Women and Child Welfare Maneka Gandhi of physical and verbal assault during her visit to the state this weekend, police on Monday said.

57-year-old Rooplal Verma, a gateman posted at the barrier to the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR) has accused Gandhi of slapping and kicking him as she stopped by on her way to Puranpur. 

Informing police about it, Verma said that Gandhi on Sunday morning had stopped at the Garha forest barrier in the Mala forest range where she saw remains of the wheat crop being burnt in the neighbor fields. He added that she lost her cool then and held him responsible for it which then extended to physical assault. 

In his complaint, Rooplal claims that he was a standing guard at the check-post near to the Pilibhit-Lakhimpur highway as the group of the minister stopped by. He said that Gandhi arrived in presence of deputy forest ranger Mahesh Chandra and other employees.

He added that the minister wanted to understand the reason behind the fire in the jungle. The Deputy Manager, who could smell the problem, he alleged fled the spot. “It was then that Maneka Gandhi questioned me.”

The man claim of replying to the minister in all humbleness that the fire in the fields from the burning of crop remains at time spreads into the forest area and that such fire are on time extinguished.

The gateman said that the minister was irritated with the response and then slapped him. He questioned the need to raise her hand on him and said that he voted for her a number of times but Gandhi continued to manhandle him accusing him of arguing with her.

On being quizzed about his complaint, Officer Kaushalendra Kumar stated that the matter would be probed.

Maneka Gandhi’s spokesperson MR Malik on the other hand denied all charges against his boss. Denying that Gandhi raised her hand on the gateman, Malik said, “Maneka Gandhi is absolutely against burning of crop waste and has discouraged it always. Concerned over the fire being so intense close to the forest she only warned against the negligence.”

The spokesperson accuses Rooplal of twisting the facts and fabricating a story about being manhandled after he was strictly warned by the minister.

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