Wednesday, April 25, 2007

May Day deadline for poacher hunters!

Times of India By-Sourav Mukherjee


GANDHINAGAR: Lion killings in Gir have assumed priority status in Narendra Modi’s scheme of things. The reason being that Modi has picked Junagadh, the heart of lion territory, as the venue to celebrate the 48th foundation day of Gujarat on May 1, and he does not want the poaching incidents to ruin his party.


The three poaching incidents of Asiatic lions in Junagadh and Bhavnagar,which claimed the lives of eight lions, and the failure of the police to come up with any substantial breakthrough, has the political establishment worried. It can’t even blame Madhya Pradesh, where the poachers come from, because the neighbouring state is also BJP-ruled.


Now the police have been issued stern instructions to find the kingpins before May Day. But the police is caught in a bind; it cannot chase the Maldharis (cattle rearers), who may have vital leads in the case, beyond a point. On Sunday, Modi dressed up as a Maldhari and addressed a congregation from Gir and Barda trying to convince them that they had a "gwala brother" in him at Gandhinagar.


The probe has thrown up little, except arrests of several women,while the male gang members are at large. The names of kingpins — Sarkashlal Singh of MP, animal hide dealers Sherkhan and Suraj Singh — are all that the police have to show. The claws and bones of the hunted lions have probably found their way out of the state.


A top police official said: "Junagadh being the focus on May 1, we are under pressure to bring the investigations to a logical conclusion." Police teams are trying to track the kingpins in MP and Rajasthan but tension is mounting as time ticks away. After all, nobody in the government would like to hear the slogan " Dekho dekho kaun aaya , Gujarat ka nakli sher aaya ", on May 1.

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