Ahmedabad Newsline-Sibte Hussain Bukhari
Junagadh, April 7: Claiming a major breakthrough in their investigation into the two poaching cases in the Gir sanctuary last month, principal secretary, forest and environment, P N Roychowdhury said the same gang of poachers who wiped out tigers from Sariska appears to be involved in the Gir killings. “The evidence found so far indicates towards Katnis who poached tigers in Sariska. They hail from Katni district of Madhya Pradesh and all the evidence found till now points to the involvement of a group of poachers from that region,” Roychowdhury told The Indian Express. He, however, said they were yet to identify them.
On Friday evening, the police arrested 2 men and 13 women from Una town. All the arrested are tribals and residents of Katni district, Madhya pradesh.
While some more male members of the gang, suspected to be the prime suspects of the poaching incident escaped from the scene. A statewide alert has been sounded to nab them. Ironically, it was not the CID crime, which made the arrests but Junagadh’s Anti-Romeo Squad and local crime branch police, which spotted some suspicious men and women in Una town and grilled them. During their interrogation the police recovered two claws, sharp knives, spheres, some tools and cash worth Rs 25,000 from them.
According to the local crime branch police inspector Subhas Raval, “These tribals were spotted on the Una-Bhavnagar road under the bridge over Machhundri river. The lion claws recovered from them indicate their involvement in the poaching incident. The claws, spheres and knives have been sent to FSL Junagadh for a detailed examination. Things will become clear after receiving the report. The lion claws recovered are looking fresh, and it might be of those big cats, which were killed in Gir last month,” Raval said.
However Raval denied the charges that some persons had fled away when the police were grilling people in the area under the bridge, which had 40 to 50 makeshift tents.
Raval added that in years 2001 and 2004 similar type of tribal gang were arrested from Amreli district and from Plasva village, some 5 km from Junagadh. At that time hide, feathers and other prohibited articles were recovered from them and it was revealed that the tribals belonged to Katni district. And, this time too, those arrested are from Katni and Panna area of Madhya Pradesh.
“They have been booked under the Bombay Police Act 135 and have been handed over to the CID (crime) on Saturday as it is the investigating agency,” Raval said.
Meanwhile, after an overnight stay at Sasan Gir, Chief Minister Narendra Modi declared war on the poachers and urged nature and wildlife lovers to launch a frontal attack on the poachers who had inter-state and international links.
He also announced the formation of a separate Wildlife Crime Cell both in the State CID (Crime) and Forest Department to effectively deal with poaching by exchange of information and ideas with Indian agencies and wildlife experts and other state governments. He also said that the State Government would consider setting up Fast Track Courts to hear wildlife crime cases, which take more than 15 years for finalisation. He also promised to engage reputed wildlife lawyers to fight these cases.
He also announced constitution of a high-powered committee headed by the chief secretary that would go into the details behind the killing of lions including accidental deaths, inadequacies, if any in the present administrative steps for conserving and protecting wildlife species particularly the Gir Lions — and come up with concrete suggestions for preservation of wildlife in Gujarat.
Modi also announced the formation of a monthly monitoring committee under Inspector General of Police,
He also announced the formation of the Gujarat State Lion Conservation Society — an autonomous body — with participation from the State Government and general public to take up the Rs 40-crore lion management plan for long term conservation of Asiatic Lions