While Assam Forest Department is caught in a whirlpool over transportation of four juvenile elephants to Ahmedabad, direct involvement of two “middlemen” in the “deal” has now come to light.
Assam Forest Department granted permission for transportation of four juvenile elephants, including two females, from Tinsukia in Upper Assam to the Jagannath Temple in Ahmedabad.
Ranjan Kumar Das, Conservator of Forest, Upper Assam had claimed that the four elephants belonged to three tribal villagers, and were being sent to Ahmedabad on “lease” for a period of six months.
But, it has come to fore that there has been “direct involvement” of two “middlemen”, and the four juvenile elephants were “sold” to the Jagannath Temple in Ahmedabad at a premium price.
The two “middlemen” involved in the “sale” of the elephants have been identified as Hukumdar Khan alias Munna Khan of Tinsukia and Imran Khan alias Imran Siddiqui of Hansara in Tinsukia district.
Imran Khan alias Imran Siddiqui is son of notorious wildlife smuggler Mumtaz Siddiqui. In June 2016, Mumtaz Siddiqui was arrested from Bor-hapjan under the Doomdooma Police Station for his involvement in the smuggling of elephants from Assam to other states.
Mumtaz Siddiqui had illegally sold12 elephants from the Charaipung Reserve Forest to Bihar, Gujarat and Kerala. Siddiqui and his associates catch elephants from forests and supplied them to other states by preparing false documents.
A section of corrupt Assam Forest Department officials is hand-in-gloves with Mumtaz Siddiqui.
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Interestingly, Mumtaz Siddiqui’s son, Imran Khan alias Imran Siddiqui had contested the Assam Legislative Assembly election in 2016 from Digboi as a candidate of the Bharat Vikash Morcha.
Involvement of Hukumdar Khan and Imran Khan made the entire episode of transporting the four elephants to Ahmedabad “murky” with the reports of micro-chipping two elephants – Rupsing and Rani on June 15.
Both the elephants were not captive born, and were caught from the jungle in January 2018. Microchips were implanted to legalize them as “captive born”, and ownership certificates were also issued by the Assam Forest Department.
The micro-chip number of Rupsingh, a male sub-adult, is 000770A96E, and the name of the elephant’s owner is Piyal Moran of Lakhipathar in Upper Assam’s Tinsukia district.
The micro-chip number of Rani, a sub-adult female, is 000770AB16, and is owned by Joginath Pegu of Laika village in Tinsukia district.
Since two cases — one PIL and another instant writ-petition, have already been filed at the Gauhati High Court, involvement of Assam Forest Department officials in the “sale” of the four elephants to the Jagannath Temple is going to get exposed soon.
The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 has very strict rules when it comes to capturing of wild animals, which it defines as hunting under Section 2(16) of the act. As a Schedule I animal, Section 9 of the act prohibits the capture of elephants from the wild.
Capture of wild elephant is a non-compoundable offence punishable with three to seven years imprisonment, and a fine of not less than Rs 10,000.
And, if the “sale” of the four elephants to the Jagannath Temple is proved, it would be in violation of Section 43 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
As per Section 43(1) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, no person having in his control or possession a captive animal in respect of which he has a certificate of ownership, shall transfer such captive animal by any mode of consideration of commercial nature.