Arrest of farmers sparks uproar
The Times Of India
RAJKOT: The arrest of a farmer and his son in connection with the deaths of an Asiatic lion and 10 nilgais (blue bulls), whose bodies were found from their farm well on May 31, has sparked an uproar among the agriculturists in Amreli district.
The forest department arrested Nanu Savaliya (75) and his son Jaisukh (45) of Likhala village and booked them under various sections of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 related to hunting. They were also booked under Section 201 of the Indian Penal Code for destroying the evidence. The duo was produced in the court and remanded to the department's custody till June 6. Though bodies of the lion and nilgais were found on May 31, it is suspected that the incident happened at least three days before.
Preliminary postmortem confirmed that the nilgais died due to consuming water contaminated with some chemicals, mostly urea, while the lion was electrocuted.
Likhala is located in the revenue area of Savarkundla forest range in Gir (east) division. Sources said the farmers had fenced the fields sprawling on 110 bigha land. The fencing was done under the the scheme wherein a group of farmers get government aid for the purpose so that they can protect their fields from nilgais, wildboars and other animals that ravage the standing crop.
Late on Sunday night, the Amreli Kisan Sangh organized a gram sabha that was attended by nearly 1,500 people where they adopted a resolution condemning their arrest. The villagers also gave statements that Savaliyas were innocent and that they should be released immediately.
President of Amreli taluka Bharatiya Kisan Sangh Bimal Kachhadiya said, "On Tuesday, around 1,000 villagers, including women from Likhala, will organize a public meeting in Savarkundla marketing yard. After that, we will hold a massive rally and submit a memorandum protesting the arrest of farmers to the deputy collector. The farmers have been wrongly framed in the case."
However, the forest department has not found any concrete evidence suggesting that the father-son duo dragged the animals and dumped them into the 50-foot-deep well. Sources said the land in this farm and nearby fields was tilled using tractors and new makeshift parapet walls were constructed on the periphery of the well in an apparent bid to destroy evidence. The grass and other vegetation beneath the fencing was also burnt.
On June 1, teams of various agencies, including state-run power distribution firm the Paschim Gujarat Vij Company Ltd (PGVCL), the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), Junagadh, dog squad and veterinary doctors from Jasadhar, were engaged in the investigation.