At first, no animals killed at Jharkhand tribal hunting festival

JAMSHEDPUR: For the first time in living memory, not a single animal was killed in the state at Bishnu Sendra Parva, an annual festival observed by tribes and neighboring Odisha and West Bengal, Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary (DWS) and forest officials said in Monday.

The adivasis observed the centennial festival without leaving their homes as Jharkhand continued a statewide blockade. Prime Minister Hemant Soren has not relaxed anywhere in the state even though 12 out of 24 districts have not reported a single Covid-19 case. With the continued blockade, many hunters were unable to reach the forests to observe the festival.

The sanctuary's divisional forest officer (DFO), Chandramouli Prasad Sinha, said small groups of tribal villagers from the Dalma foothills arrived to offer prayers with traditional weapons and there were no reports of wild animal killings until Monday night. Sinha said: “We have not let our guard down. Our patrol teams are doing their job and the foresters watch over the 14 entry points to the sanctuary. ” He added that making tribal devotees follow the rules of social estrangement while performing the rituals was one of his priorities.

Jamshedpur DFO Abhishek Kumar said many regular hunters have not ventured into the forest, but some adivasis reached the Dhalbhumgarh and Ghatshila areas. He added: Our teams have seized animal traps from some locations, but there are no reports that any animals have been killed.

A DWS official said that despite the low level of presence this year, authorities have to wait until the wee hours to ensure that no animals have been killed. The tribals usually go hunting at dusk. We will find out if they killed any animals only when they return from the forests, he added.

The Dalma Buru Sendra Samiti (DBSS), the main organizer of the festival, had previously said that the festival will be observed without any fanfare. DBSS official Rakesh Hembram said: Before the festival, we had asked people to observe the festival only by offering prayers.

In the past, adivasis have protested foresters who try to prevent them from hunting Sendra, claiming that the festival is a custom and that no law can prevent them from following it. Forest officials also do not admit that the animals were hunted in Sendra.

Tribal activist Mukesh Birua said that hunting in Sendra is not a crime against nature as the Adivasis know how to live in harmony with their environment. “It is our habit. We never invaded the central forest area and only hunted animals in the buffer zone. While the Santhal tribes resume the annual ritual of hunting animals one day, others, including the Ho and Oraon tribes, observe this festival for a month so that each village has the opportunity to hunt some animals, he said.