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Wildlife Activists Demand Arrest of Assam CM, Sadhguru for Violating Law

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma and Jaggi Vasudev violated the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, by entering the Kaziranga National Park for a night safari, activists have alleged in a police complaint.

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Guwahati: Assam chief minister (CM) Himanta Biswa Sarma has dismissed allegations of animal activists that he, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and tourism minister Jayanta Malla Baruah broke the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, by entering the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) for a night safari on Saturday.

Social media videos and local channels showed Vasudev driving an open safari SUV along with Sarma, Baruah and other VIPs seated with him after the park was opened to tourists for the forthcoming season on Friday. 

Sharing a short video of the safari on Twitter, Sarma wrote: “His blessings are special. His teachings, extraordinary (sic). Revered @SadhguruJV, in whose presence Kaziranga National Park opened today for tourists, has a special message to save precious Rhinos. And indeed he enjoyed the Jeep Safari. Tourism Min Shri @jayanta_malla accompanied.”

Defending the night safari, Sarma said that there is no law that “stops people from entering at night” and therefore, “there is no violation”.

According to wildlife law, the warden can give permission to enter a protected area even at night. Yesterday, we had the formal opening of the park for this season and now Sadhguru and Sri Ravi Shankar have arrived. Since they have lakhs of followers, this time we expect the tourist season will be very good for Kaziranga,” Sarma told reporters on Sunday night, according to news agency ANI.

Assam’s principal chief conservator of forests MK Yadava said that since the forest department had invited Vasudev and Sarma, “it is wrong to say that Sadhguru and our chief minister entered the park and enjoyed the safari late at night”. NDTV reported.

All arrangements were made and there was no way that we could cancel the plan just because it was getting dark,” Yadava said.

Vasudev, who heads the Isha Foundation, was in Kaziranga to open a three-day Chintan Shivir for ministers, legislators and bureaucrats of the state. The Foundation said that he had been invited by the government. “We believe all the necessary permissions were taken by the government for this special occasion,” it said in a statement.

Activists Soneswar Narah and Prabin Pegu had filed a police complaint against Sarma, Vasudev and Baruah at the Bokakhat Police Station, Golaghat district, alleging that the safari with the jeep’s headlights blazing after dusk was “in violation of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972”.

Narah and Pegu, residents of Morongiyal and Balijan Adarsh model villages, located near the park, also demanded the immediate arrest of Vasudev, Sarma, Baruah and other VIPs who were part of the jeep safari or a public apology from the alleged violators, PTI reported.

Demanding strict action against Vasudev for entering KNP after the end of the stipulated time for tourists and driving a jeep with headlights on, Narah and Pegu said that that the fringe dwellers had sacrificed their land, cattle and endured many hardships for protecting the park and have always abided by the law.

We are living at the peripheral region of Kaziranga National Park for many years and sacrificed many things for the national park. Many of our people were killed by forest personnel and branded as poachers. Blatant disregard to the laws by VIPs should not be tolerated,” the activists said.

Narah, chief adviser, Jeepal Krishak Shramik Sangha, told reporters that despite safari not allowed inside the park after 4 pm, “the three were seen enjoying a safari ride inside the national park after 6 pm, violating the Wildlife Protection Act”, according to NDTV.

Asserting that the “law is equal for all”, Narah said, “How can they violate the Wildlife Protection Act? We would not tolerate such activities. They should be arrested for violating the law.”

Environment activist Rohit Choudhury tweeted: “Evening safari after sunset in @kaziranga_ ..!! Is this not Violation (sic) of Section 27 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act,1972..?? Just asking...this is the outcome of a flop Chief Wildlife Warden @assamforest & flop Director @kaziranga_ @ntca_india @SPYadavIFS @moefcc.”

A senior police officer told the PTI that “an enquiry into the issue” has been launched. “As the KNP falls under the forest department, we have asked for a status report on the allegations from the divisional forest officer of the park,” he said.

A KNP official requesting anonymity told PTI that “people have a right to make an allegation, and based on it, an enquiry will be conducted. But before the matter is looked into, we cannot make any comment on it”.

The official evaded a reply on the allegation of violation of wildlife protection laws. “Things have to be viewed in perspective. It was an official programme and sometimes, such an event runs a bit late. In such a situation, I don’t think we can call it a violation of law.”

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