Sharvani Pandit in Jaipur
The Bishnoi community of Rajasthan is up in arms over increased black buck (chinkara) poaching, and the indifference of the local authorities.
This year, Bishnois in the Nokha sub-district of Bikaner have reported 11 incidents of black buck poaching.
It were the Bishnois who alerted the authorities about the shooting of two black bucks by film stars Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam in October 1998.
And now the community is incensed over the dramatic increase of black buck shootings, compared to only two in the corresponding period last year.
The black buck is listed as an endangered species.
The Bishnois protect the wildlife and environment with a missionary zeal. Their history is peppered with stories about martyrs who died fighting to save the environment.
Bishnoi leader Rajaram Dharidiya said: "Police and other officials do not cooperate with us in combating the menace. It is ironic that the community
is running a campaign virtually alone to check the destruction of wildlife."
Rajasthan Patrika, a Hindi newspaper, quoted forest officials as saying that there are about 5,000 chinkaras in Nokha.
According to officials, poachers come to Nokha from the neighbouring Chomu and Nagaur districts. They enter Nokha in large bands and kill the animals for their coat, horn and meat.
What surprises visitors to a Bishnoi village is the sheer freedom with which the spotted deer, blue bulls, and black bucks race along the roadside or frolic in the open fields.
Dharidiya alleged that at times the police demand money to conduct investigations against poachers.
The Bishnoi movement is one of earliest known ecological movements in Rajasthan. Jambaji, or Jambeshwar Bhagavan, born in 1451 in one of Rajasthan's warrior sects, was disillusioned by communal riots between Muslims and Hindus.
To stem the destruction, he formed a religion based on 29 (bish: 20, noi: 9) principles that included compassion for all living beings, cleanliness, devotion, vegetarian diet and truthfulness.
Bishnois are so dedicated to the task of protecting their environment that
their women are known to nurture motherless fawns, give up their lives to save trees and go hungry to provide food for animals.
Indo-Asian News Service
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