17-year-old Rajasthan boy fought with armed chinkara poachers, chased them
Rajasthan’s Bishnoi community, known for protecting flora and fauna, has found a young hero in Mukesh Bishnoi.
A resident of Bhalu Rajwa (Ketu) village on the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer highway, Mukesh Bishnoi had never thought that he would be searched and talked about on social media.
The fame came after the 17-year-old fought fearlessly with armed poachers, who shot a chinkara (Gazella bennettii) in Jodhpur district, on Sunday. Besides being the talk of the town, he has also been given a certificate of appreciation by the Akhil Bharatiya Bishnoi Mahasabha.
It was just another day for Mukesh, who along with team member Pukhraj, started his night vigil, without knowing he will become a hero for many.
The nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has come with additional responsibility for Mukesh, who is part of the 15-member team to protect the chinkara, poached allegedly for its meat.
“Before lockdown, our team used to be on night vigil twice a week but with lockdown, we are working seven days a week. Protecting flora and fauna is our religion,” the Class 11 student said.
After dropping the rest of the team member to respective locations, Mukesh and Pukhraj took a halt to drink water at the government school at Bhalu Anupgarah at 8.30pm, before heading to their scheduled place.
“We heard a gunshot and immediately rushed towards it in our jeep. At a distant, we saw that four people were armed and carrying a chinkara and after spotting us they started running,” he said.
“Our jeep got stuck in the sand, so I jumped out to chase them. One of them, whom I know, pointed a gun at me but it wasn’t loaded… I charged at him and struggle started,” he added.
As the scuffle was on, the two men carrying the chinkara started running and others returned to attack.
“He pushed me and I lost my balance and tumble down the sand dune. However, during the tussle with the poacher, I got hold of their gun. As they ran in away in the dark, we sent a message to our members through the group created on WhatsApp,” he said.
In the next 10-12 minutes, around 100 people including villagers reached the spot. They followed the blood trail of the shot chinkara and reached village Chamu, around 7km away from the spot.
Officials of the forest department were also informed, who reached and raided the house but the poachers managed to flee.
Mukesh said this was the second incident that poachers have opened fire. The last time it was at his friend.
When asked whether he was scared of the armed men, he said, “No, saving chinkaras is my religion and the society is with me.”
The youngest amongst his siblings, Mukesh said his family knows what he is doing.
“My mother was more petrified but I made her understand and father after receiving calls from many, now is settled with the incident.”
Mukesh, a student of humanities who studies when he gets time off his vigil from 8pm to 3am, wants to serve the animals in future.
Mahendra Choudhary, the forest ranger, said a first information report (FIR) has been lodged and out of the four accused, two have been identified.
They raided the suspect’s house but could not nab them. A traditional muzzleloading gun (topidar) has been recovered and efforts to nab the accused are being made, officials said.
Poachers have been hunting the chinkara despite their status of an endangered animal under Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protecting Act, 1972. The Bishnoi sect, which protects animal and trees as part of their religious beliefs, guards chinkaras in the Marwar region of Rajasthan.