Social media is flooded with plaudits for 15-year-old Mukesh Manju Bishnoi for fearlessly fighting four armed poachers to help save Chinkara, an endangered species of deer which has highest protection under the Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. An Indian Forest Service official Parveen Kaswan also tweeted his appreciation for the boy.
A native of Ketu village in Jodhpur district, Rajasthan, Bishnoi was on a routine night patrolling on May 10 when he received an intimation from two of his friends that four armed men are carrying a deer. Narrating the incident to EducationWorld, Bishnoi says, “They tried to shoot my friends but they escaped. My friend Pukhraj and I rushed to the spot and saw that they were carrying a deer upside down. The animal was bleeding. Two of the poachers had run away. We tried to catch the other two, one had a torch in his hand and the other had a gun. I caught hold of the gunman but the other poacher pushed me away. So, I could snatch the gun but could not catch the person. We followed the trail created by the blood of the animal and went about 6 to 7 km away from the spot to reach the house of the hunters. We had informed the forest officials and the police but the hunters had escaped by the time we all reached the spot.”
Bishnoi says this is the second time he had an encounter with the hunters since the time he joined the Bishnoi Night Riders patrolling group about seven to eight months ago. The first time he had a face-off with the poachers was on April 27 when he managed to nab the hunters and filed a case against them but he says the police did not investigate the matter further. “The police isn’t being supportive. We have filed several complaints and also found the parts of animals at the houses of these poachers but the police do not take any action,” he says.
According to Bishnoi, cases of wildlife hunting has gone up during the lockdown and the poachers keep changing the locations when he along with other 20-odd members of the group try to nab them. The group was founded by Bhajan Ketu about two-and-a-half years ago, he says. “I learned how to nab the poachers from the other group members. They inspire me and motivate me. My family (two married brothers and parents) also motivate me. They ask me to do the right thing and not indulge in any wrongdoing when I step outside in the night,” he says. When asked how he manages his studies at Shahid Jaswant Singh School alongside patrolling, he says, “I study in the car when we go for patrolling at night using the light inside the vehicle and as the vehicle has tainted glass, the light does not go outside and alert the poachers. And, only during the lockdown, as the cases have increased, we step out every night. Otherwise, usually, we go only when we get a tip-off from someone.”
Also, the official state animal of Rajasthan, Bishnoi says he hasn’t seen a more beautiful animal than chinkara and hence, he is fearlessly committed to do whatever he can to protect the animal. The Bishnoi community in the state protects animals and trees for their religious beliefs.
Akhila DamodaranNational, News