Monday, 12 December 2011

Army jawans found cooking chinkara meat in Barmer army camp

In a shocking incident, at least five army jawans participating in the ongoing Sudarshan Shakti exercise on the India-Pak border hunted three endangered chinkaras (Indian gazelle) in the Nimbla Sajitala area of Barmer's Sheo tehsil on Friday.

"After being informed by the villagers, officials from the state forest department rushed to the camp and recovered the severed heads of the gazelles besides uncooked meat," P.R. Bhadu, territorial district forest officer (DFO) of Barmer, said.

The five army jawans have been identified as subedar Gopilal, hawaldar D.R. Nath, nayak N. Sarkar, lance nayak P.R. Pardesi and sipahi D.R. Naidu. Bhadu said the jawans fled the camp when the forest officials raided it.

They also left behind the army vehicle that was used in the hunting. The vehicle, which had bloodstains on it, was seized and released only after an examination by the forensic experts.

Defence spokesperson S.D. Goswami said a court of inquiry was ordered to investigate into the matter. He said if the accused were found guilty, they would be dealt with sternly.

Calling it a very serious offense, Bhadu said the recovery of the hunted chinkara- that too in a "langar" (kitchen) of the army camp - was unprecedented. The meat was being cooked when the forest department officials raided the place.

The accused have been booked under sections 9 to 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which provides for a maximum punishment of seven years, including financial penalty.

Hunting of chinkara is banned under Schedule I of the Act. The law also prohibits hunting of blackbuck, cheetah, elephant, rhinoceros, snow leopard, tiger, lion and several other wild animals.

Member of the state committee for wildlife and environment Rajpal Singh pointed out that the locals had been complaining for long that the army officers were frequently hunting the endangered species but no action could be taken for want of evidence. "But now with the undisputed evidence available, the complaints had been proved correct," he said, adding that the senior officers of the army should look into the matter and ensure that such incidents did not occur in future.

This is not the first time that the hunting of an endangered species has created a controversy. The late Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi had to face court proceedings after he killed a blackbuck in 2005 and then absconded as a fugitive. In another case in 1998, Bollywood actor Salman Khan was booked when he killed two blackbucks in Bhawad near Jodhpur.

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