After rebels, the army would be battling poachers in Assam.
The sate government has asked the state police to coordinate with the army and Central paramilitary forces for forming an anti-poaching squad with focus on the 860 sq km Kaziranga National Park.
This follows the shooting of four rhinos this week. Two rhinos were alive when their horns were hacked off. The rhinos are bleeding profusely from their severed snouts and their chances of survival are slim.
“We have decided to let the army and paramilitary forces dominate Kaziranga. I have passed necessary orders to the DIG (central range) and he is coordinating with them,” GD Tripathi, Assam home secretary, said. He added that the forces would be allowed to take appropriate action against anyone involved in poaching.
According to the police, local and international animal body parts traders were involved in the rhino horn trade. Since the four rhinos were shot in the Karbi Anglong – adjoining Nagaland, this hill district borders the southern edge of Kaziranga – the finger of accusation is being pointed at Karbi and Naga tribal militants.
“The horns are routed through Dimapur (in Nagaland) to south-east Asian countries,” said LR Bishnoi, inspector general (law and order). “A rhino horn is sold at Rs50lakh to Rs1crore in the international gray market.”
The spurt in rhino poaching, meanwhile, has triggered a war of words between forest minister Rockybul Hussain and opposition parties Asom Gana Parishad (BJP) and BJP. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi fuelled the verbal battle on Friday saying more rhinos were killed in Kaziranga during the AGP and NDA regimes.
Forest officials said poachers have killed 79 rhinos – 16 of them so far this year – in and around Kaziranga since 2007. Kaziranga, otherwise, is home to 2,500 one-horned rhinos. The park also has the highest density of Royal Bengal tigers – 32 per 100 sq km.