Four policemen, escorting alleged poacher near Sonai-Rupai sanctuary, suspended; magisterial probe ordered, cop connivance not ruled out
NEW DELHI, AUGUST 1: The forest staff of Assam’s tiger-rich Sonai-Rupai Sanctuary intercepted a police van last week and recovered a tiger skin and at least 10 kg of tiger bones. A local villager, Mohammed Zilani, who was travelling with the police personnel, was arrested.
Assistant sub-inspector Dilip Kakaty and three other police personnel escorting Zilani were suspended and put under police observation. A case has been registered against Zilani and a magisterial inquiry has been ordered.
The skin, it is learnt, was seven-to-eight days old and the ‘‘raw flesh stink’’ was a giveaway when forest guards at Kalamati beat office intercepted the police vehicle at a checkpoint. During the search, angry villagers joined the forest guards seeking the custody of Zilani who they alleged was a notorious poacher.
Divisional Forest Officer (Sonitpur West) Satyendra Singh, Superintendent of Police (Sonitpur) N Gogoi and Amaribai range officer soon reached the spot and took charge of the accused. Some local villagers, however, staged a protest the following day against alleged police atrocities.
Denying any attempt to hush up the incident that took place last Monday, SP Gogoi claimed that the cops were suspended ‘‘due to negligence in duty’’ and not because of any suspected poaching connection.
‘‘I don’t think they have any direct link. A local villager who was known to the ASI had asked for a lift at a local market. They probably took him along in good faith but they should have checked his belongings,’’ Gogoi told The Indian Express.
DFO Singh confirmed the seizure. ‘‘It was a routine check but the reeking vehicle made our staff suspicious. There was a minor altercation and locals also gathered from nearby villages. But there was no serious injury,’’ he said, adding that the skin was that of a full-grown tiger and more than seven feet in length.
In Guwahati, the state Principal Chief Conservator of Forests M C Malakar didn’t rule out the possibility of certain police personnel working in connivance with local poachers. ‘‘It is worrying. But I don’t want to infer anything while a magisterial probe is on. We will know the details when we get the report,’’ he told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, a few local organisations have sent a memorandum to the President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister and the state forest minister, seeking a thorough investigation.
Inspection of Corbett road
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has allowed joint inspection of the proposed road alignment to bypass Corbett National Park. If finalised, it will connect the two major regions of Uttaranchal while avoiding damage to the Park. An apex court division bench allowed the Forest Ministry and Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) conduct the inspection. The controversial project was floated by Uttaranchal.