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Wildbuzz | When Bulbul trounced the Baaz

punjab Updated: Jun 11, 2017 21:17 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
Vikram Jit Singh
Hindustan Times

A Shikra on a Garden lizard hunt. The Shikra is often mistaken as the ‘Guru’s Baaz’.(RAJEEV TYAGI)

As GOC of 9 Infantry Division for the tough as nails operation, Blue Star, conducted in June 1984, Maj Gen KS Brar sported a rather unmenacing nickname, Bulbul. His forces were pitched against Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed gangs, who had lent him a spurious halo by spreading rumours that the ‘Guru’s Baaz’ had been seen hovering over the fanatic preacher. Intrigued by the ‘Bulbul’ aside to Lt Gen Brar’s formidable personality, I asked him a few days after the 33rd anniversary of Blue Star as to how he had come to acquire the nickname.

“My parents gave me this nickname when I was a child; why, I don’t know. Honestly, I sometimes feel embarrassed by it!’’ Lt Gen Brar, who retired as Eastern Army Commander in 1992, told this writer. Well, no harm done by his doting parents because Bulbul did go on to win the battle against Bhindranwale, who was allegedly blessed by the Guru’s Baaz and lent a seemingly invincible air. That was not the end of the contest though. After Bhindranwale was killed, mischievous elements planted rumours that he was alive and would surface on Pakistan TV on June 30,1984.

“Bhindranwale’s body had been identified by his relatives, followers, police, and cremated. Yet, these rumours spread and even influenced the government. Then union information and broadcasting minister, HKL Bhagat, called me up and declared that his reports were that Bhindranwale was alive. I told Bhagat that this is a figment of your imagination. As luck would have it, just a few days after the operation, a bird alighted on a tree outside the Golden Temple and hundreds of people congregated there, claiming it was a baaz and an augury that Bhindranwale was alive. I saw the bird myself, but could not identify it. Since the peasantry and rural people are susceptible to such myths, we were worried that the bird will turn into a point of unrest. Fortunately, the bird fled from the commotion quickly and the crowds melted. And Bhindranwale never managed to rise from the dead,’’ quipped Lt Gen Brar.

The reason why such ‘Guru’s Baaz’ fallacies persist is that ignorant people mistake small, local raptors such as Shikras/Black kites/Honey buzzards for Guru Gobind Singh’s prized hunting baaz, which was the mighty Northern goshawk. The goshawk is Punjab’s State Bird due to its association with the Gurus, but is not found within the present state boundaries.

A Monitor lizard in the grip of a King cobra at Rajaji Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand. (VIRU NEGI)


One of the most spectacular of serpents is the King cobra, whose array of hood and length (being the longest venomous snake of the world) endows it with the status of a true icon of the wilderness. What if one witnesses this lordly serpent hunting and devouring prey? A magical such moment of natural history was captured by ‘Jungle Safari and Birding Tour’ operator, Viru Negi, at the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand, on Thursday.

Negi came across this dramatic scene of the King cobra devouring a Monitor lizard, a process that took 100 minutes as the snake slowly eased the prey inside, head-first, by making good use of its jaw, which enables the mouth to open very wide. This is because snakes can easily unhinge their jaw as unlike a ‘mammalian jaw built for brute force, a snake’s is rigged with tendons, muscles and ligaments that give the jaw a gymnast’s flexibility’.

An Indian grey wolf at the Jaipur zoo. (Ashish Anant Sawant)


The wolf figures prominently as an ‘evil’ character in children’s literature and is a pivotal figure for an across-the-cultures abundance of nasty analogical references as ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’, ‘lone wolf’ attacks by jehadis etc. But the fact is that only few of us have seen this creature outside of reel life and prejudiced imagination or possess even rudimentary understanding of its complex existence.

The species is distributed patchily in the Indian wilderness, is declining and persecuted, and only 18 zoos possess wolves. The good news is that after two years of tricky negotiations between Jaipur and Chhatbir zoos, they have consented to an exchange deal. Jaipur will part with a valuable pair of Indian grey wolves (Canis lupus pallipes). Chhatbir will transfer to Jaipur zoo a pair each of Swamp deer, Spotbill ducks and Lady Amherst’s pheasants. “This exchange deal, which is part of a long-term plan to build up Chhatbir’s collection, has been placed before the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) for approval,’’ Punjab chief wildlife warden, Dhirendra K Singh, told this writer.

Wolves have attracted undue notoriety due to child-lifting and livestock depredation in certain regions of India. But the pair will be a prized acquisition for Chhatbir. A requisition has also gone from Chhatbir for an exchange with Delhi zoo to procure an Indian fox pair, though this deal is yet to receive consent from both zoos and the CZA. The educative value of housing foxes, wolves, hyenas and jackals in Chhatbir would also lie in enabling easy distinction as they are often confused in popular perception.

First Published: Jun 11, 2017 15:16 IST