Against lion, sisters show real gau raksha
The Times Of India
AHMEDABAD: A popular poem by Jhaverchand Meghani hails a 14-year-old girl of the Gir forest who protects a calf from a lion, using only a stick and fearlessness. The heroism extolled in the 20th century Gujarati verse, 'Charan Kanya', was displayed on October 9 in real life in Gir when two sisters repulsed a lion attack to save their cows.
Santok Rabari (19) and her younger sister Maiya (18) live in Mendhawas, a hamlet in the Gir sanctuary near Tulsishyam in Amreli district. The sanctuary is the only abode of Asiatic lions. Ten years ago, their father Jehabhai suffered a paralytic stroke. Since then, the sisters have been taking their cattle to graze in the forest.
"When a lion approached their herd, Santok and Maiya stepped between the lion and cattle, holding up their sticks and looking squarely into the lion's eyes," said Mansukh Suvagya, the founder of Jal Kranti, an NGO which works for cow welfare and water conservation. "When the lion backtracked, the sisters pressed ahead, forcing the lion to bolt."
Suvagya said he learnt of the girls' courageous stand from beat guards and local residents. "We joined the girls for five days when they took their cattle into the forest," he said. "We noted their confident body language". Santok, a demure girl clad in salwar-kameez, said their understanding of the big cats helped them. "If you show a lion your back, it will attack you. If you stand firm, it will leave you alone," she said.
Though Santok is modest, forest officials testify to her steeliness. "I have personally documented at least five incidents in which Santok has shooed away a lion," said the range forest officer of Liliya, P A Vithlani. The sisters were feted for their bravery on Monday by Jal Kranti.