Police, on Wednesday, arrested four persons in Tral quarter of southern Pulwama district in connection with the killing of a black bear. The arrests have triggered massive protest demonstrations and general shutdown.
Wildlife officials say that a black bear had strayed into Mandora village of Tral on November 17 and a frenzied mob beat him to death. TV images, telecast by a news channel on December 15, showed a mob beating the bear with lathis and stones. They also sprinkled kerosene oil on him and burnt him alive.
"It is a serious matter, and the persons responsible for the killing of the black bear will be dealt with strictly", said a local police officer. The killing of wild animals is prohibited under Wildlife Protection Act in Jammu and Kashmir.
Hundreds of residents took to streets on Wednesday and held protest demonstrations against the arrests. They said that the black bear had terrorised the residents by attacking them. They said that 70-year Abdul Gani Rather of Shariefabad village was attacked and brutally injured by a black bear earlier, who later died in the hospital. Incidentally, one of the four persons arrested in connection with the killing of the black bear includes Rather’s son Wali Mohammad.
"When his (Wali’s) father was killed by the black bear, nobody took note of it. But on Wednesday he was arrested for killing the black bear. What kind of law is it, which takes care of wild animals and not humans", said Ghulam Nabbi Bhat, a relative of Rather.
The residents said that they had captured the black bear and locked him in a shed for over 12 hours. "We informed the Wildlife Protection Department but they did not turn up. The bear in the meanwhile escaped, and people in panic chased and killed him", said another resident Mohammad Subhan Rather.
A senior officer in the Wildlife department said that they have taken note of resident’s claim and have removed four officials, including a range officer, from their posts. He said that an enquiry by principal conservator of forests has been initiated.
Wild bears entered populated areas in many parts of Kupwara, Baramullah, Anantnag and Pulwama this year. As many as three persons including a minor child were killed and over 30 wounded in the attacks by them on residents. Last month, a bear snatched a child, whose body was recovered the next morning from a nearby field. A woman in Kondabal village, around 27 km from Srinagar, was also attacked by a wild bear, who succumbed to injuries at a hospital.
Wildlife officials say that there had been a substantial increase in wild animal population in Jammu and Kashmir as poaching and hunting has stopped in Kashmir with the rise of terrorism. They say that the human interference in the wild animal habitat has also increased and many forested areas have been denuded, which forced the wild animals to stray into villages.