LEGEND OF SHER JUNG
For a man of so many parts, a tribute that would lend permanence to his legacy has finally come. On Thursday, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh readily agreed to change the name of the 27.88 square km Simbalbara National Park in Sirmour district to Sher Jung National Park in the memory of the legendary freedom fighter, guerrilla warrior, hunter of man-eating tigers and leopards, wildlife conservationist, painter and author, the late Col Sher Jung (born Nahan, 1904, died in Delhi, 1997).
The proposal was put to the CM at the meeting of the state wildlife advisory board by Ashish Dasgupta, himself a modern-day slayer of man-eaters and one who was mentored by Col Jung since 1965.
Col Jung was the heroic figure in the Ahmedgarh train robbery of 1928 in Punjab, when as an associate of Bhagat Singh he looted the train to buy arms for revolutionaries. Col Jung raised two battalions of the Jammu & Kashmir Militia to fight tribal invaders in 1947. He went on to lead guerrilla units against the Portuguese (1953-58). With Dasgupta as his assistant, Col Jung crossed behind enemy lines to train the Mukti Bahini in then East Pakistan in 1971. Dasgupta recounts that Col Jung could be ruthless: on one occasion he pulled out his pistol and shot through the mouth a captive Pakistani soldier who had raped an 8-year-old daughter of a resistance guerrilla. PHOTO CREDIT: MAHADEV BANERJEE
His books, ‘Gunlore’, ‘Tryst with Tigers’ and ‘Rumblings in Tigerland’, expound his deep love for nature and concern over decimation of forests.
It may be recalled that Col Jung’s nephew, Paonta Sahib MLA, Kirnesh Jung, and younger brother, the late Ch Jagdeep Singh of Ganguwala, and Dasgupta had shot the leopard maneater of Morni hills in 1988.
RIP THE CAUSE
One fine morning in August 2002, the tricity woke up to read the horrifying news of journalist, Abhinav Nayyar (38), having hung himself to death. Nayyar was the epitome of an honest scribe. When his mates would devote more time to ‘thought for food’ at lavish lunches hosted for the media, Nayyar would prefer not to even sip the host’s water fearing it would compromise his objectivity.
An inordinately sensitive soul, Nayyar perhaps found himself the odd man out in a society founded on rough and ready methods and ill at ease with fine principles. The tragic suicide by hanging of wildlife conservationist, Sanjay Acharya (26), in Bhubaneshwar on December 3, 2013, echoes Nayyar’s fate. Acharya schooled at Kendriya Vidyalaya Number 1, Halwara, Ludhiana, though he was an Oriya by birth.
The brilliant snakeman, Vivek Sharma, paid Acharya a disturbing tribute thus: “Acharya was a restless and very dedicated field worker of all wildlife activities including enforcement, awareness, rescues, documentation, etc. He gave half his life to animals. One of the few people who never felt it was a problem cleaning wounds of an animal at 2am. His first crime was that he was less educated and did not fulfil the requirements of an NGO even though he was possessed with all practical skills. Another crime: he was more towards free service and preferred animal comfort over money. Third crime: He left his friends, family and home state to fulfil his passion of being a servant of wildlife even though his income was meagre. All seems failed and he is out of his own life.” PHOTO CREDIT: Wildlife & Nature Conservation Trust
One of Acharya’s most remarkable acts was to clamber heedlessly down a well to rescue a stranded leopard. His friend, Sree Vardhan Garlapati, writes the epitaph on the thankless cause of wildlife conservation: “Acharya was killed by this brutal, inhuman society...this is so sad we have lost such a brilliant commander of wildlife.’’
The other day a troupe of well-heeled moms and kids with hubbies in tow trooped into the charming Sukhna Lake nature trail. They did not spot a furtive leopard, neither did the nervous hordes of sambhar deer allow them a glimpse. But enthusiasm was infectious. A mom wrote of her trip, “We almost saw a python!!! The kids spotted different birds, butterflies. They saw deer footprints. We tried to identify different animal POOP!!! It was a lot of fun. We missed those who could not make it.”
Well, that just about sums up one year in action of an innovative club, Fun with Nature - Connecting Kids and Nature, founded by Diksha Suri and Seema Sharma.
Drawing its strength from schools such as Carmel Convent, Strawberry Fields Kindergarten and World School, Vivek High School and St John’s High School, 20 moms and 30 kids have banded together to spend fruitful hours in natural environs. Most moms were pleasantly surprised at the wonderful natural spots that exist unknown within or just on tricity limits. Lucky chaps can even get to see a leopard or atleast its pugmarks within a 30-minute drive from Chandigarh. The club has toured Kansal forests, Plantae Paradise in Parwanoo, Bamboo Garden in Sector 23, Chandigarh, a farm near Ambala, etc. PHOTO CREDIT: VIKAS SURI
Kids climb trees, cross rivulets, watch migratory birds and absorb diverse natural environs.
Moms slip in a banana as a replacement for junk food! But kids cannot be forced to mug up bird and tree names, as the exercise then degenerates into the rigours of competitive naming and class-room drudgery.
Kids should be left free to soak in what they please and years later this will bloom into an abiding affinity for nature. Little Deveishi has the last word: “I love going out with my friends but I don’t like bird-watching!”