Guwahati: Amid the row over the violation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act by driving a safari vehicle inside the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNP & TR) in Assam beyond the scheduled time by the Chief Minister, Tourism Minister, and spiritual guru Jaggi Vasudev a.k.a Sadhguru, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) M.K. Yadava on Monday said that the VVIPs did not violate the law.
The PCCF said that after the unveiling of three statues of rhinoceros at the Mihimukh of KNP & TR on Saturday, they (forest officials) had invited Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Tourism Minister Jayanta Malla Baruah, and spiritual guru Sadhguru to participate in a safari vehicle inside the KNP & TR.
“The law has permitted the Chief Wildlife Warden to allow the visitors to take part in a safari vehicle in a special case. Many people do not know the special provision leading to unnecessary controversy. The issue was raised as part of a hidden agenda to defame the national park,” the PCCF told the media.
Noting that all arrangements were made for the safari vehicle and there was no way that “we could take it back just because it was becoming dark”, the senior Indian Forest Service official said that during the safari vehicle, KNP & TR Field Director and other forest officials were present in the park.
“If anyone is accused over this issue that is I… me, not the VVIPs or the guests,” Yadava clarified.
Environment and animal rights activists alleged that Assam Chief Minister, state Tourism Minister and Sadhguru violated the Wildlife (Protection) Act by driving a safari vehicle inside the KNP & TR in the late evening which is much beyond the scheduled time.
Activists Soneswar Narah and Prabin Pegu on Sunday lodged a police complaint at the Bokakhat police station in Golaghat district against the Chief Minister, spiritual guru, and the Tourism Minister, demanding action against them under the act.
“Villagers around Kaziranga have sacrificed a lot to protect the world-famous park. Wild tigers, elephants and other animals killed many domestic animals of the people living alongside the park,” Narah had told the media.
Forest and other law enforcement agencies took action against many people for “violating” the Wildlife Protection Act and many people were sentenced to imprisonment, he said.
The activist said that if the law is equal for everyone, then action must be taken against the Chief Minister, Sadhguru, and Tourism Minister for conducting the vehicle safari inside the national park much beyond the scheduled time.
A fleet of vehicles carrying Sarma, Sadhguru, and the minister covered around 2 km inside Kaziranga after the inauguration of a rhino memorial about two hours behind the scheduled time on Saturday.
Sadhguru was driving one of the safari vehicles with the Chief Minister in the passenger seat while the Minister sat in the back along with officials and guards.
Environment and wild animal expert Rohit Choudhury said that vehicle safari after sunset in Kaziranga is a violation of Section 27 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, which restricts the entry in a wildlife sanctuary of anyone other than a public servant on duty.
Another environment and animal rights activist Apurba Ballave Goswami said that it is most unfortunate that an important person like Sadhguru, “whom we expect to practice what we preach, has no sensitivity towards animals”.
Goswami said that it is known that wild animals in their protected homes and forest feel disturbed by lights, sounds and noises of vehicles at night.
India’s seventh Unesco world heritage site, Kaziranga is not just a home of at least 2,613 one-horned rhinos, but also to Royal Bengal tigers, Asian elephants, wild buffalos, and many more animal species while it is also a habitat to thousands of birds of over 125 species.