Army violates National Park rules in ‘pursuit of Burhan’

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Srinagar: Troops from the Indian Army’s 5 RR, raided the Dachigam National Park on Wednesday night in utter violation to the National Park regulations, an ‘operation’ that continued for the second consecutive day today.
The ‘operation’ is believed to have been initiated after the Army reportedly got the whiff of the  poster boy of Kashmir militancy, Burhan and his associates wandering in the upper reaches of Dachigam.
“Around 10 trucks belonging to the Army’s 5 RR entered the Park through the main gate during the Wednesday night,” a wildlife official who wished not to be named said. “They looked heavily armed and I could see them carry rocket launchers as well.”
Army’s Defence PRO, Col NN Joshi, when contacted said he was unaware of the developments. “Frankly, I have no information about which unit of the Army had gone there,” he said adding he’d confirm and get back with more details.”
Col Joshi returned the call after some time and described the ‘operation’ a routine affair. “The Unit must have obtained a prior permission to go into the park,” he said. “Let me check for more details and get back to you.”
Regional Wildlife Warden, Chaturbujh Bahera, said that his office had no prior information about the army coming to the Park. “Vehicles of any type, be it Army’s, cannot be allowed into the Park premises,” Bahera said. “We’ve issued strict instructions not to let the gate open to anyone. Such activities not only tear apart the sanctity of the Park but would endanger the flora and fauna of the habitat. This must be stopped at all even if it costs me my job.”
“When the chief minister can pre-inform us of his visit, why anyone would enter into the Park premises without any permission, he said. “Even the CRPP stationed in the Park do inform of all the movement of their vehicles.”
“Kashmir is a different story and whenever the forces deem it necessary to conduct a search operation anywhere, they are invariably free to go wherever they want,” said another senior Wildlife official.
Dachi gam National Park is a 141 Sq Km area that serves as the last refuge for the endangered deer specie ‘Hangul’ (Cervus elaphus hanglu), a closely related species of the European red deer.
The Park faces numerous threats from all sides with conservationists sounding an alarm that if proper measures were not taken immediately, the deer specie would soon be a thing of the past.
A sheep breeding farm set up years ago within the Park is, according to the experts, a great danger to the survival of the deer specie to which Dachigam is the last stronghold.
The sheep farm which is spread over 100 acres (2000 kanals) was the prime breeding spot of the Hangul. The Sheep Husbandry Department is sitting over a cabinet decision which had asked the authorities to vacate the Park.
The Mulnar side of the National Park has also seen some hectic human activity resulting in the spread of human settlements close to the Park. The locals have encroached upon the Park and seized some of its part for a graveyard as well a few years ago.
On its southern flank, the cement factories and stones quarries at Khrew are another great danger to the survival of the Hangul specie.
Over the years, the unchecked mushroom growth of cement factories and stone quarries has squeezed the animal to a limited space within the park.
The Wildlife Warden Central, Tahir Shawl, has undertaken a slew of measures to improve the habitat of the wildlife inside the Dachigam. “I have a wonderful staff who leave no stone unturned to ensure that wildlife inside the park is safeguarded,” he said. “We have closed the gate on Mulnar side, stopped entry of vehicles into the Park and stopping sale of fish in trout farm.”
The Park has been a protected area since 1910, first under the care of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir and later under the observation of the concerned government authorities.
Repeated attempts to reach the Defence PRO didn’t materialise as his phone was constantly ‘busy’.  

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