Wildbuzz | Era of blood sport’s power
Chand was an influential jagirdar and a shikar chieftain who organised wild boar hunts across the Sutlej flanks and Shivalik ravines in peerless fashion from the 1960s-’80s.
With the recent demise of Rai Shiv Chand of Bhallan, Nangal, at the ripe old age of 90, a distinctive era of the ‘power shikar’ culture embracing apex elites of the political, bureaucratic, army and erstwhile nobility came to an unheralded end. Chand was an influential jagirdar and a shikar chieftain who organised wild boar hunts across the Sutlej flanks and Shivalik ravines in peerless fashion from the 1960s-’80s.
His house guests for a juicy boar barbeque attracted none less than politicians PS Badal, Captain Amarinder Singh, former Western Army commanders, Lt Gens KP Candeth and PN Hoon, the ‘flying Sikh’, Milkha Singh, the erstwhile hill rajahs and the cream of the Punjab IAS and IPS.
“We organised 300-400 beaters, 150 hunting dogs and 40-50 guns for a boar shoot on the then CM Badal’s request in 1978,” Chand’s son, Tikka Yashvir Chand, told this writer. During that hunt, a shikari shot a sambar, which was banned under law. A Sambar poaching case was registered against Chand, which dragged on. But then apex bureaucrat and an inveterate partridge shikari, the late Kamal Nain Singh, came to Chand’s rescue.
A chairman of the block/panchayat samitis, the popular Chand had told this writer before his death: “My modus operandi was simple. I would tell villagers: lend your shoulder to VVIP shoots by coming as beaters, boar trackers etc. A successful shoot helped me greatly to get their ‘works’ done with the government.”
True to his word, following the proverbial Sunday shoot, Chand would land at the Civil Secretariat, Chandigarh, on Monday. His grand shikars paid handsome dividends: a red carpet would replace the proverbial red tape for his long list of ‘mere lokaan de kam’.
Sporting handlebar moustaches, a 30.06 Winchester rifle and a tongue laced with saucy wit, Chand’s shikar recounts speared the high and mighty. The time when a sozzled hill rajah urinated in his pyjamas at Chand’s country mansion after a boar shoot as he could not get the strings undone in time. That IAS officer KS Bains was such a poor shot at flying partridge that it took a Herculean effort to keep lips locked. Chand was eye-witness to the ‘flying Sikh’ abandoning a sinking country boat on the Sutlej, leaving six-year-old Jeev in the lurch.
The son of Rai Bahadur Hari Chand, an MLA of the Punjab assembly before and after Partition, Shiv Chand was appointed member, State Wildlife Advisory Board, in 1985, 2002 and 2017. He was sacked overnight in 2018 after he wrote a letter to Amarinder detailing a ruling heavyweight’s indulgence in ecological destruction and the sand mafia.
A ramble along the serene Sukhna Lake Nature Trail yields sightings of birds, animals and insects, apart from an occasional serpent. One creature to consistently defy a clear view is the Sukhna’s golden jackal. These agile creatures -- disreputed as ‘darpok gidhars’ in Punjabi lore -- are nevertheless a doughty species adapting to almost any environment.
Their stealth presence at the Sukhna is revealed dramatically by eerie howls emitted at dusk and dawn, vocalisations that humans are more familiar with than the animal itself. Burrows engineered by Indian crested porcupine and inhabited jointly in relative harmony with rock pythons are situated off the trail and deeper in the Sukhna jungles. But some of these burrows bear signs of vicious conflicts with jackals, who seek to evict the residents and turn the multi-chambered, ready-made subterranean dwellings into dens for rearing pups.
Well-known tricity IT entrepreneur, angel investor and international marathoner Munish Jauhar had attempted to photograph the jackals over the past year, but all he got for his exertions were visions of vanishing fur. Then, on Diwali, in the forenoon, lady luck smiled on Jauhar upon his venturing to the trail for a relaxing ramble.
There he spotted a jackal equally enjoying the lonesome trail bereft of humans due to the festivities. The jackal was not edgy as normal and was sniffing the clean, cool air. Adopting a stealthy approach, Jauhar’s long lens was at last enabled to capture the Sukhna’s ‘sharmilee spirit’.