New spider species named after 26/11 martyr who caught Kasab

Mumbai: In a poignant gesture, a group of naturalists have named a new spider species discovered in Kalyan, Thane, in memory of the 26/11 Martyr, Tukaram G. Omble — the man who helped nab Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab alive during the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai.

The new ‘jumping spider’ male sex-species, found last year in an urban locality of Kalyan town, has been christened as “Icius Tukarami”, said Ahmedabad-based photographer and wildlife enthusiast Dhruv Prajapati.

Simultaneously, another group comprising Rajesh Sanap, Somnath Kumbhar and John Caleb — discovered another unknown spider species distributed in Aarey Colony, Mumbai and also 50 kms away in Kalyan, and named it as “Phintella Cholkei”, in 2017 and 2019, respectively.

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“This is in memory of Kumbhar’s friend, Kamlesh Cholke who used to collect and provide us with different species of spiders. It has unique body pattern and genital organs not seen in other spiders,” Sanap told IANS.

The latest finds have been described and published in a research paper published in an internationally-reputed journal, “Arthropoda Selecta”, jointly by Prajapati and Ravi Dutt Kamboj (both of Gujarat Ecological Education & Research Foundation), Sanap and Caleb (of Indian Institute of Ecology & Environment) and Kumbhar – who meticulously collected both the species from the wild.

On the move to name the species after the Mumbai 26/11 hero, Prajapati said that he was deeply impressed by the extraordinary valour and bravery in the line of duty displayed by Omble when south Mumbai was under a 60-hour siege during Nov. 26-28, 2008.

A former Indian Army soldier who retired and joined as an Assistant Sub- Inspector of Police attached to the D. B. Marg Police Station in 1991, Omble, 54, hailed from Satara and was manning a check-post at Girgaum Chowpatty at the height of the terror strikes in the wee hours of November 27.

Soon afterwards, the heavily armed Kasab and his associate Abu Ismail were seen speeding down the deserted Marine Drive in a stolen Skoda, but it was stopped at the traffic post near Chowpatty.

In the indiscriminate firing by the two blood-thirsty terrorists and retaliated by the policemen on duty, Ismail was shot dead.

However, Kasab was caught alive by Omble who managed to overpower him despite being pumped by over 40 bullets fired from an AK-47, which later claimed his life.

As his gallantry became a legend Omble, was declared a ‘Martyr’ and conferred with the country’s highest peace-time honour, the Ashok Chakra in 2009.

“It is to keep his memories and fearlessness alive in public minds, I decided to dedicate this new species of spider in Omble’s name,” Prajapati said.

Earlier, Prajapati has named new spider species after two Bharat Ratna’s – former President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and cricket maestro Sachin Tendulkar – besides Kashmiri Martyr and Indian Army soldier, Nazi Ahmed Wani, who was slain by Hizbul Mujaheddin terrorists in 2018 and was conferred the Ashok Chakra (2019).

On the significance of the latest discoveries, Sanap said that Spiders are microhabitat specialists sensitive to sudden changes which make them ideal indicators of the ecosystem function.

“They are an integral component of the food web, control insect populations, and even minor environmental changes can either hit or wipe out their population, hence they must be conserved,” Sanap explained.

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