|A tiger in Tadoba National Park|
It has recently been reported that poachers involved in poaching of tigers are being released on bail, allowing them to continue carrying out their illegal activities. One example came last month when the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court gave bail to two poachers of the Baheliya caste named Barsul and Yarlen. Before that, a Delhi tiger skin trader named Naresh Lala was also released on bail. Now, all three perpetrators had filed an application before court to be excused from appearance at court hearings due to health reasons. Records indicate that poachers from castes like the Baheliya from Katni district and Bawariya from the state of Haryana never appear before court once they are released on bail. Many notorious poachers granted bail are either escaping or had to be hunted down and rearrested. Previously, eight merciless poachers involved in tiger poaching during the 2012-13 period have been released on bail. They include Suraj Pal also known as Chacha ("uncle"), Naresh Lala, Barsul, Yarlen, and poacher harborers Parman and Soberam, in addition to Jiyalal Bawankar, who uses to make steel traps for poachers.
An analysis of poaching cases in the Nagpur area over the past few years indicated that poachers of the Baheliya caste never showed up at court cases once released on bail, and were discovered to be involved in new poaching cases. For example, in 2004, four Baheliya men and nine women were captured with a steel trap in the Brahmapuri division. All thirteen of them were released on bail, and since then the case is still pending since the accused have never attended the court. Another example was seen in the case of Keru Chhiyalal Rajgond and Ranjit Singh Bawariya. The CBI had arrested them along with other suspects at Nagpur Railway Station and confiscated two tiger skins and thirty kilograms of bones in November 2009. Keru was granted bail in July 2010 from the high court and Ranjit's son-in-law Ram Swarup was declared a minor by the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) of Nagpur. Ranjit was released on bail in early 2011, along with Amit Kumar, Tashi Lado, Channa Lal, and Tashi Shering. Currently, Keru is running away and has never showed up at a single hearing after being granted bail. The CBI distributed non-bailable warrants (NBW) several times, but he never appeared in court. Keru and his brother Ajit were later engaged in tiger poaching again. Last summer, they killed an adult tiger in Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary and another in the Brahmapuri division. While the court has not yet called for a guarantee from Keru, Ajit has applied for bail. Tashi Shering, on the other hand, passed away in December last while Lado is missing from hearings for the last one year. The court did not take any action on his application to not show up on medical grounds. Similarly, Ranjit has been running away from March 2013 but no NBW was distributed by the court. Fortunately, he was arrested by forest officials from Andhra Pradesh in December last year for poaching tigers in Melghat Tiger Reserve.
It is extremely disappointing and agonizing to see how poachers or anybody involved in poaching of tigers and other endangered species be granted bail so that they can simply disappear only to resume their illegal activities of further decimating the wildlife. In addition, such perpetrators come up with devious ways of manipulating the legal system to guarantee a chance of being granted bail. For example, poachers of the Baheliya caste are known to use fake names and produce fake documents such as birth certificates and ration cards to be released on bail. A recent example of this was seen in the case of poachers Chika and Mamru, whose birth certificates presented in court were found to be fake. This indicates that poachers are trying to stay one step ahead of the authorities. Over the years, poachers from castes like the Bawariya and Baheliya have been granted bail and used this opportunity to abscond so that they never appear for court hearings even when authorities like the CBI issue non-bailable warrants against the perpetrators. This news indicates that it is absolutely crucial that India must enforce strict penalties against poachers in which they would not be granted bail under any circumstances and even be deprived of their rights to apply for bail. In addition, law enforcement officials must also keep their eyes open for any signs of manipulation by the perpetrators such as the use of fake names and documents in the form of birth certificates, ration cards, etc. This would prevent the perpetrators from being released on bail to continue carrying out their illicit deeds. At the same time, there should also be an implementation of education and awareness programs directed towards the Baheliya, Bawariya, and other communities whose members are known for being involved in poaching. The purpose of these programs should be to educate the people from such communities about the dangers of poaching and how they can help to stop it, in order to encourage them to not take the same path as their fellow community members who have been arrested for their actions. This combination of law enforcing and community outreach would help curb any further activities of poaching in India.
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