Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Maoists attack Bengal zoo; kill scores of birds, 2 deer

Times of India

JHARGRAM: Maoists launched a brutal assault on a zoo in Jhargram town on Saturday night, firing indiscriminately into deer and black buck enclosures, setting fire to animal cages, burning hundreds of birds and beating the beat officer and forest guards. The actual toll is still being assessed, but two black bucks are confirmed dead and hundreds of birds burnt to ashes.

Forest department officials are now scrambling to save an elephant herd that is headed in the direction. The attack on the zoo, just 2km from Jhargram, could be a strategic move because it connects the town with Jharkhand via Banstala and Manikpara. Once Maoists have access to it, they can easily reach Jharkhand. Jhargram is now surrounded by rebel strongholds. The attack, which took everyone by shock, is indicative of lawlessness in Maoist-hit Jangalmahal. It was followed by murder of two CPM leaders at Laudhiadham, just 6km away. Both were shot execution style with a bullet to the back of the head.

The mindless massacre of animals indicates that the Maoists and PCPA may not have control over elements within the outfit. The tribal upsurge is rapidly turning into an uncontrolled reign of terror in Jangalmahal. PCPA president Santosh Patra could not explain the attack on the Jhargram Mini Zoo. He admitted that the mob which stormed into the sanctuary ‘‘was not under their control’’.

The zoo in West Midnapore, about 220km from Kolkata, houses many endangered species, among them the gharial, sloth bear, and crocodiles. The only two black bucks were riddled with bullets and the carcasses taken away. A huge aquarium was smashed to bits.

When TOI reached the zoo at 10pm, just half an hour after the attack, a huge bonfire was raging in front of the gate. Several trees could be seen blazing inside. Charred foliage, burnt branches and heaps of concrete — remains of the boundary wall that was pulled down by rebels — were strewn over a 300-metre area. Even 12 hours after the attack, wisps of smoke curled up from the ravaged cages.