The Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary has its fingers crossed, hoping against hope that the week would pass by peacefully. The reason? Tribals from Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha offered their first puja to Van Devi on Saturday, and will embark upon their annual hunting ritual – known as Sendra – inside Dalma on Monday.
Dalma is the only eco-sensitive zone in Jharkhand where 36 species of animals and birds have been classified as ‘endangered’. As per 2012 census, Dalma currently has 157 elephants, 575 monkeys, 315 wild boars, 17 sloth bears, 22 spotted deers, 98 squirrels, 85 porcupines, 79 peacocks, 19 mongoose and 280 jungle fowls.
The forest department has made elaborate arrangements to prevent and minimize, if not completely stop, hunting of animals. Principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Pradip Kumar will be in Jamshedpur from Sunday while seven divisional forest officers (DFOs) will take charge of as many zones in the sanctuary to try and stop animal hunting on Monday by tribal hunters.
Seven assistant forest conservators, 52 range officers and 100 forest guards will be deployed in Dalma Sanctuary on Monday and Tuesday to counter the hunting challenge of Sendra.
“Tribals will be checked at 15 checkposts before they are let in, while 17 patrolling vehicles will cover all the routes and continuously roams inside the sanctuary to keep a close vigil on the activities and movements of the tribal hunters. We won’t allow hunting but they are free to celebrate their tradition,” chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Rajiv Ranjan told HT.
The tribals have not taken too kindly to what they see as an infringement of their rights.
“We will hunt down animals for this is our annual religious ritual. Tribals have the first right over Jharkhand… if we are not allowed to perform our religion in our own land…is this justice? We won’t tolerate any attack on our religions and culture,” Rakesh Hembram, Desh Pradhan (chief) of Dalma Buru Sendra Samiti, told HT.
“The ritualistic first sacrifice will be made on Sunday morning before thousands of tribal hunters from 85 adjacent villages as also other parts of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha start Sendra in Dalma on Monday,” he said.
However, the tribals have agreed to tone down the festivities this time. “In our tradition, only hunting with bows and arrows and spades is allowed, and we will stick to that. We will also not kill pregnant animals,” Hembram said.