A Jharkhand government employee and his businessman-friend were arrested on the charge of killing a wild deer in a forest near Hazaribag wildlife sanctuary and carrying the carcass in the boot of their car.
A police patrol discovered the dead deer in the car during a routine check on Sunday night near Tatijharia police station close to the sanctuary. Also, the police found a rifle and 40 bullets.
The carcass, sent for an autopsy, bore bloodied marks akin to bullet wounds.
Police lodged an FIR against Amit Kumar Singh, an employee with the civil court in Hazaribag, and businessman Radhe Shyam Singh. They were remanded in jail custody on Monday.
The sanctuary and its fringe forests have more than 400 deer, mainly the large Sambar and the spritely and spotted Chital species that are protected under wildlife laws.
About 150 of these animals are kept in enclosures, fenced off to prevent them from straying into human settlements where venison is a prized delicacy.
Besides, the 1955-established wild park is home to hyenas, sloth bears, black bears, Nilgai, several types of monkeys, snakes, and 180 species of birds.
Poaching is not uncommon but game hunting — a banned activity — is reported rarely in Hazaribag.
The place was crawling with Maoist insurgents till a decade ago, though their numbers have dwindled of late.
“We were alert after three-four gunshots rang out from Banhe forest. We thought extremists were firing and checked all vehicles passing through the area,” assistant sub-inspector Amod Kumar Jha said.
“A couple of hours later, we caught two men on their way to Giridih with a deer carcass and a rifle in the car boot.”
Singh apparently is a repeat offender, who allegedly used to go hunting every Sunday. But he was never caught before.
“The killing happened outside the sanctuary. Animals move around, sometimes travelling long distances to forests in neighbouring districts,” divisional forest officer Sushil Soren said.
Villagers have alleged that the Tatijharia police station in-charge Ashok Kumar had let off at least six people in a jeep, who were caught with rifle during a vehicle check. They suspect that the group was involved in wildlife hunting.
Kumar dismissed the allegation. “We had caught a Jeep but released it after finding nothing offensive in the vehicle,” he said.
Hazaribag superintendent of police Anup Birthare informed that a senior officer will probe the charges against the police station in-charge.