July 24, 2000,
Hunting goes on in wildlife sanctuary
HOSHIARPUR, July 23 — Weekends which bring joy and relief to humans spell doom for thousands of animals which reportedly continue to be killed for recreation by police, politicians and other influential persons in Ropar, Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur districts of Punjab.
A ban on the killing of animals notwithstanding, the lives of animals such as leopards, sambhar, wild pigs, red jungle foul, senh, wild goats and rabbits are in peril as they are hunted influential persons. Most of them hire the services of professional hunters, usually the “Saansis” settled in the foothills and concentrated in some pockets of this district. Such people set out on a “shikar” in a caravan of vehicles on Saturday nights and return the next morning with boots of their vehicles full of dead animals.
Having spent the whole night in woods, the “shikar party” usually bring the dead animals to a farm house where they are either instantly consumed or their meat preserved in the form of pickles.
The stark violation of Wildlife Act has allegedly been going on for several years, however, no stringent action has been taken by the wildlife authorities. Department officials reportedly turn a blind eye to the crime due to the influence of offenders, who are generally senior police officers, businessmen and politicians.
A cruel tendency among “shikar lovers” is to go on a hunt during the breeding season between March and September since it is easier to kill pregnant animals who are unable to protect themselves.
There is a disturbing rise of such incidents in Hoshiarpur district, primarily due to the presence of roads going deep in the woods and semi-hilly areas falling in neighbouring Una district of Himachal Pradesh.
According to a report, a number of villages of the district such as Kuka Ner near Jaijon, Tappa Bahara near Dholbaha, Manhote near Gardhiwala, Sansarpur Makkowal near Talwara, Neela Naloya, Mangrowal, Dhholbaha, Janauri, Manguwal, Chack Sadhu and Mahilpur are the hot spots among shikar lovers as they are well-connected with roads and are close to the dense forests of the semi-Shivalik hills where animals are found in abundance.
So much so, the Takhni Wildlife Sanctuary has also not been spared by the hunters who often stray into the reserve sanctuary area and kill animals, either with the connivance of forest officials or take advantage of the fact that there are only four-five wildlife guards in Hoshiarpur and they have not been provided with any firearms.
“Who can face hordes of “shikaris” or influential people who are usually flanked by AK-47 wielding guards. In addition to this, they also use .312 bore single barrel and .22 bore rifles, which are generally without any licence. Moreover, they have Gypsies and other powerful vehicles, and we don’t even have motorcycles. In such a situation what we can do except be mute spectators to the show of cruelty,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
In 1995, a senior Congress leader, known for his “shikar sprees”, wascaught while playing shikar in the Bhunga area and the wildlife officials had requested the police to register a case in this regard, but no action was taken.
Two department guards were allegedly framed by the police for they had dared to take action against some well-connected people. The department has not taken any action against Patiala-based relatives of a senior Akali leader, from whose custody some pea-fouls were recovered last month.
According to sources, Neela Naloya village in Hoshiarpur district has become a favourite resort for a textile tycoon, who comes to the area with a cavalcade of trucks and forest tents and stays there with a farmer for about a month every year, during which he plays shikar. No one has dared to check the practice so far.
Farmers also indulge in hunting with the help of “Sansis”, simply for the sake of fun. They do it in their own “desi-style” —with the help of hunter dogs and tractors fitted with search lights.
When contacted, wildlife officials, on condition of anonymity, said the main problem with the department was shortage of staff, arms and vehicles due to which the officials were not able to check such activities.
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