Friday, April 2, 2010

Kaziranga National Park – a leading wildlife sanctuary of Assam – the hidden story of poachers

Whenever I go to Kaziranga National Park (the leading wildlife sanctuary of Assam), I try to stay at Bonoshree. Bonoshree is a beautiful lodge in the beautiful environment Kaziranga National Park. I love Bonoshree and its rooms. From Bonoshree, you can have a view of the hills (the hills look magnificent in a moonlit night) of Kaziranga National Park. And there you can breathe in the Kaziranga National Park smells too. You can find lots of hotels near Kaziranga National Park. The hotels are nice.

I spent the night at a rented house at Kohora near Kaziranga National Park. When I went to see the forest Kaziranga National Park in the pre-dawn light, I saw rhinos, elephants, buffalos, and deer—they are a common sight at that time at Kaziranga National Park. You don’t have to go to a swamp or a pool dotting the sanctuary or into the woodland of Kaziranga National Park or into the grassland of Kaziranga National Park to watch them, if you get up before dawn. When I visited Kaziranga National Park — I had visited Kaziranga National Park (leading wildlife sanctuary of Assam), the Brahmaputra floodplain, several times before — I met with five poachers at Kohora, near Kaziranga National Park. Though they tried to avoid me, I secretly followed them and went into the tunnel through the impenetrable grassland of Kaziranga National Park.

Kaziranga National Park! The hunters are killers at the sanctuary. Cool-blooded killers. They love killing any animal they can kill. To enjoy killing. To enjoy flaunting their masculinity. But some people hunt only rhinos at Kaziranga National Park. They are poachers. They kill rhinos at Kaziranga National Park with business interest. The tuskers at Kaziranga National Park are killed for ivory. The rhinos at Kaziranga National Park are now killed mainly for horns. In the past, at Kaziranga National Park, the rhinos were killed also for hide; from the rhino hide, bowstrings were made. In those days, shields were also made from their hide, including the coulters of ploughs. The rhino horns were traded as valuable products from Assam. You may read A’in-i-Akbari and Ptolemy to know more. It was believed that a goblet made from the rhino horn could detect poison. So the Medieval European monarchs and Sheikhs used such goblets to drink. Nowadays, the horns are sold at a high price, since some people believe that they have aphrodisiac power. Some people also wear rings made from the rhino horns. Modern decline of the rhino population is a result of superstition. Many people hunted rhinos for sports. Emperor Jahangir hunted rhinos. Maharaja of Cooch Behar hunted rhinos.

Manas, Laokhuwa, Orang, Pobitora, Sonai-Rupa, Kukrakata, and Panidihing, including Kaziranga National Park, couldn’t (and still can’t) escape the boundless greed and cruelty of the poachers. Plainly speaking, the entire rhino population at Kaziranga National Park is under their rapacity and cruelty till this very moment. If the Rhino Preservation Act of 1915 hadn’t been made, the rhino population, in my mind, would have been totally extinct even in Kaziranga National Park, like in Laokhuwa, Kukrakata, Sonai-Rupa, and Panidihing.

When the about-two-ton mega herbivore, the landscape-architect, the influencer of nature of the fauna of the ecosystem, collapse to the earth, electrocuted or shot, the quake travels to every corner in the sanctuary to perhaps continue forever. A rhino’s muted scream of pain from the pit it falls in tears the sylvan silence of even the flat, undulating grassy plains of Kaziranga National Park. The rhinos at Kaziranga National Park sanctuary that survive the bullets curse human civilization. A human with a humane heart can’t stand the gruesome sight.

Through the woodland, the poachers secretly enter the grassland at Kaziranga National Park again and find the tunnels made by the movements of the animals. They prefer a moonlit night at Kaziranga National Park. They watch the rhinos secretly inside the dense forest of Kaziranga National Park comprised of elephant grass. The poachers feel very happy when they find a dandi (a tunnel or a tract). The rhinos make a dandi while they move ahead, crushing the tall and dense elephant grass in the cover. The depth and width of a dandi are subject to the repetitions of their movements, and the rhinos express their democratic spirit through their preference to moving along the same dandi and defecating at the same place.

It is dangerous to walk ahead along a dandi at Kaziranga National Park. It’s dangerous because a rhino may walk into the dandi any time, making the person walking unable to find a way to escape, since the elephant grass at Kaziranga National Park is so thick.

The poachers use bamboo spikes, hessian sacks, and daos (machettes). In the dandi, the poachers dug a deep pit so that even a huge rhino is swallowed in it. They drive the spikes into the bottom of the pit, their sharpened and pointed ends up, to make the spike-bed. Then they spread dried reeds over the pit and thatched the roof with grass so that the expected victim—a rhino—can’t even guess that that is a pit trap. Sometimes a boar also falls into the pit, front first, get its neck broken, the spikes penetrating its belly, and get the spikes into its body more deeply as a consequence of more efforts of no avail to avail itself of the opportunity of freedom like before, the screams through the layers of grass startling its surroundings, and then meet with eternal failure.

Sometimes, they electrocute the rhinos at Kaziranga National Park. Sometimes, they shoot them. But the pit trap is an easy method.

When a rhino falls into a trap, it remains lying battered and mutilitated, the failure of struggles glaring in its leathery eyes, the corners sodden with the dry streams of tears. The poachers do not give attention to anything but to the horn. They quickly cut the horn from its snout and escape from Kaziranga National Park.

I list some useful links below:

Kaziranga National Park or wildlife sanctuary:

Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park Assam

Kaziranga National Park Organization

Kaziranga National Park hotels:

Do a Google search.

Kaziranga National Park tourism:

Do a Google search. There are lots of tourism services in Assam.

Kaziranga National Park map:

Map of Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park map

Way to Kaziranga National Park

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Theft in a Train

After eating fried rice, I went to sleep. The supper was so satisfactory that I didn’t have to wait long for sleep. Though some people complain about interrupted sleep in a train, I don’t do so. I sleep like a baby even in a moving train. The movement of a train gives me the feeling of a hammock, and the train noises don’t disturb me. For sleeping like this in a train, I paid penalty several times.

Once I failed to get off at the station of my destination. When I woke up, I found my compartment in a shed about half km away from the station. It happened at Rangia, Assam. Another time, all my belongings were stolen away when I remained sleeping.

Anyway, the theft happened in Saraighat Express—a fast moving train—from Guwahati to Howrah. The theft was both funny and dangerous. At midnight after the train had left Maldah, West Bengal, loud voices in the next coup woke me up. When I gave attention to the voices, I came to know about the theft.

The narrator was an Assamese young man of strong build. He was leading a team of artists to Raipur. I don’t know how many artists were there in his team. But in his coup, there were two young boys and three young girls. The girls were smarter than the boys—they went to toilet past my coup—and their cute dresses made them look cuter. From their (loud) conversation, I learned that they sang and danced. One of the girls was putting on weight; the other two were slim. When they discussed education and behaviour of teachers, I made sure that they read at a college. Their Assamese was the Assamese of the people who belong to Upper Assam. Had I been in their coup, I would’ve talked a lot to them. Assamese in a train out of Assam, like Assamese out of the State, make me feel so proud and happy.

The gang was comprised of five thieves. Like policemen, they wore uniform jackets. Shining their torches, they examined whether the passengers were sleeping. (I don’t know if they shone their torches on me either.) When they found the suitable man, they guardedly stood at his berth. One of them kept shining the torch straight on the sleeping man while the other became busy doing something, bending close to the man. The Assamese young man, who had already taken them for policemen, didn’t care to ask them anything. He just thought that they were just doing their routine duties.

But the actuality came to light when they got off by pulling the chain. They cut the sleeping man’s pocket and took away five thousand rupees, including his ID card and ticket—he was a Hindi-speaking sales representative in Shillong.

The Assamese young man and the victim went on loudly remembering the theft to each other and laughing off and on through the rest of the night, expressing regrets that they failed to catch them.

I still wonder why they saw only fun in that incident. Was that really funny? Anyway, only that night I failed to sleep well and made a resolve not to sleep in a train, like a baby in a hammock, anymore.