ABDULLA KHAN | NT
The tribal community of Dhangars in Goa has always been considered as saviours or protectors of their habitat and nature. However, the recent incident of poisoning of four tigers in Golavli village in the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary which led to the death of the wildcats is a matter of concern.
The five locals arrested in connection with the tiger deaths are Dhangars. What forced the members of the community to resort to the harsh step and why the government machinery failed to act even after knowing about the incident of a tiger killing cattle heads belonging to the Dhangars are some of the questions that arise in the mind of every Goan.
With their bread earners in forest department’s custody over their direct or indirect involvement in the tiger killings, the families are claiming that they are being harassed by the forest officials. ‘The Navhind Times’ visited the two families located in Golavli village.
With teary eyes,
Gangi Pawne, wife of Vithu Pawne, who has been arrested, said that they are unaware of how the tigers were killed and claimed that her husband is innocent. Narrating the incident of December 20, Gangi said that their cow was attacked by a tiger and left severely injured. After noticing the injuries, her husband had complained to forest officials on December 21, she said.
“Forest officials did nothing. They came and installed a camera trap. After two days, our cow died and we were helpless. We were told by the officials not to touch the cow or allowed to bury it by reasoning that if we did it, the tiger would attack the other cattle heads,” said Gangi, who is now waiting for her husband to return home. Presently her husband and son have been arrested and she is left with her mother-in-law, a daughter and her younger son.
Speaking further, Gangi said that a few days later, their neighbour’s buffalo was killed by a tiger. Accusing the forest department staff of threatening her family, Gangi said a forest personnel had visited her on Saturday afternoon and asked her to sign on some document. “I was told to sign on some document. When I hesitated, the forest guard said if I did not sign, he would arrest my second son. I don’t understand why we are being harassed like this. My mother-in-law is bedridden and her health is deteriorating by the day. We are worried now, what can we do?” she cried.
Saddened by the arrest of her father and brother, Deepa Pawne said that the government should release them on humanitarian grounds, as the family members are in a helpless situation. Dairy farming is the family’s source of livelihood and in the absence of the male members, work has come to a stop since the last few days. Without any income, the families have been forced to fast.
Meanwhile, the other family resides in a house, which is under construction. The house, which has no door to protect the members from wild animals, is guarded by dogs, which are also a common prey of the wildcats.
Manita Pawne, daughter of Malo Pawane, studying in a higher secondary school in Valpoi, said, “Our livelihood is based on cattle breeding and on December 30, our buffalo was killed by a tiger. I was told by forest officials that we worship tiger and that our male members have killed four tigers. I was not aware of the killing incident but when we received communication relating to the arrest of my brother, I was shocked,” she said and wept.
“When the forest department was aware of the presence of tigers in the area, they should have made an attempt to protect them or they should have at least come to our place and told us about the possibility of the tigers attacking our animals. No alert was sounded regarding the presence of wildcats in the area,” said Manita, who has failed to attend her Class 12 preliminary examination following her father’s arrest.
Displaying a paper, she said, “The department has served us a notice that they have arrested my brother but that notice lacks a stamp and signature of the department authorities. We are afraid of what the forest department will do to my father and brother, as they are not aware of the implications of Wildlife Act.”
Wife of Malo, Nagi Pawne claimed that her family is going through a tough time. “We are all ladies here. My son was not well and had visited a hospital. He was arrested by the forest officials from there. We are completely shattered and living in fear,” she said.
It is understood that the accused did not have any intention of killing the wildcats, neither were they aware of the laws related to wildlife. Members of both the families have appealed to the government to look into the matter from a humanitarian angle while conducting investigation into the tiger deaths.