On a sunny Saturday afternoon, two days after a leopard was beaten to death in the area, tension is still palpable at Mandawar village — 40km south of Gurgaon. Amid fears of punitive action for killing the animal that, they say, injured 13 people in three hours on Thursday, the villagers shared tales of ‘courageous’ youth who prevented loss of life.
In the two days since the incident, the event has been embellished with ‘snippets of valour’. Seated on a cot puffing hookah with a group of villagers, Chajju Ram, a 50-year-old-farmer, recalled how one of the youths, Lalit, saved one Sandeep. Some men claimed that Lalit “held the leopard by the scruff of its neck”.
“The leopard had caught Sandeep’s abdomen when Lalit intervened and rescued him,” Ram said, narrating how Lalit held his nerve while facing the animal, and ended up with bruises on his hands.
On the left of Gurgaon-Sohna road, a concrete road bisecting the sprawling agricultural farms leads to Mandawar -- a village tucked in the foothills of Aravallis and untouched by development. The village is surrounded by Faridabad in the east, Tauru in the west, Gurgaon city in the north and Sohna town in the south.
In the presence of police and ill-equipped forest officials who struggled to rescue the leopard, the villagers, armed with sticks and axes, hunted the animal for over three hours till they killed it. The initial autopsy report suggested that the three-to-four-year-old big cat died because of loss of blood.
The incident had sparked criticism from activists who demanded enhanced facilities for wildlife management in the region, and proper implementation of guidelines issued by the Union ministry of environment and forests in 2011 to control man-animal conflict.
Environmental activists maintained that there is an urgent need to conduct orientation meetings of wildlife and forest staff in Aravalli villages.
“There is a need to enhance equipment and manpower in the region. In south Haryana, a comprehensive leopard and wildlife management plan needs to be developed, keeping in mind the numerous deaths of leopards that have taken place,” said Chetan Agarwal, environment analyst.
“Had it not been for the young men, many villagers would be dead by now. And, we are told that a case would be filed against us,” former sarpanch Khazan Singh said.
A construction company worker, Lalit, 30, has attained a hero stature after Thursday’s incident. As he gets ready for another round of treatment on Saturday afternoon, 10 villagers assemble outside his brick-and-mortar house to ferry him and another injured man, Yogesh,
to Sohna civil hospital. The
leopard had pounced on Yogesh, 30, while chasing a group
Apart from the rumour about police action, the village is also abuzz with a rumour that another leopard is roaming around. As a preventive measure, several residents have started keeping a stick next to their bed at night.
“The episode has left us in the fear of more attacks,” Pratap Singh, 53, said. Singh said he has never seen the nearly 2,000 residents of the village so scared.
Besides Lalit and Yogesh, villagers injured in the attack include Praveen and Bhupender. Two others, Shankar and Karamveer, who were part of the 1500-strong-mob, came from neighbouring Kherli Lala village. Another injured man, Ramzan, is from Satla village three kms from Mandawar.
“They (forest) officials know that we live near the forest.
They should at least keep interacting with us. We have not seen wild animals before. We do not even know if it was a tiger or a leopard. They should have informed us about handling wild animals,” Shashi Kant Bharadwaj, 25, said.