CID finds Uttar Pradesh connection in 2007 Gir lions poaching case
Express India By Vikram Rautela
Ahmedabad After Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh links have emerged in the Gir Asiatic lions poaching case of 2007. Gujarat Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which is investigating the case, said on Wednesday that involvement of a notorious poacher from UP, Shabbir Hussan Qureshi, is being investigated and that he will be brought to Gujarat for interrogation soon.
The case had recently hogged headlines for the large number of convictions secured. A total of 36 people, including a wildlife goods trader from Karnataka, Prabhakar Keshav Gajakosh, were arrested and later convicted under provisions of both the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Qureshi, who is known to have connections in national and international poaching rackets, is presently lodged in an Allahabad jail. He was arrested by the Special Task Force (STF) of the UP Police from Lucknow with 17 tiger skins and 100 tiger bones worth Rs 20 million in November 2007.
His name opened up during interrogation of a key accused in the case, Minter Naka Pawar, who was arrested from Kutney in Madhya Pradesh. Today, a Bhavnagar court granted permission to the CID to put Minter under psychological tests like narco analysis and brain mapping.
Investigating officer, police inspector L N Jadeja said: "Minter headed the group of Baheliya tribal, who was involved in the poaching of Asiatic lions here. He had met Qureshi during the tribe's 2007 Holi celebrations in Kutney and agreed to work for him. We have been told that the dead remains of lions poached were sent to Qureshi."
Additional Director General of Police, CID (Crime), V V Rabbari, who is supervising the investigations, said, "A team will soon be sent to Allahabad to seek Qureshi's custody. We have the court's permission to conduct psychological tests on Minter."
Alarmed by the increasing instances of poaching at Gir around March-April in 2007, the Gujarat government had decided to rope in the conventional crime investigators (police) to assist the hapless Forest Department officials, who had no experience of a similar probe earlier. IGP Keshav Kumar was the investigation chief. It took Kumar more than five months to nail all the culprits on the grounds of strong evidence.
"We established through more DNA tests that the blood of the dead Asiatic Lion that was found on the 'crime scene', matched with that found in the accused persons' nail clippings, blood-stained clothes, spears, knives and wooden sticks," Kumar said.
The CID (Crime) was handed over the investigation at a time when the state government was under pressure to shift some of the Asiatic lions to MP. While poaching left no tigers in neighbouring Rajasthan, it was for the first time that Asiatic Lion's last abode — Gir sanctuary — became a target of poachers.