Reward and Punishment – Animal Killer or Hero

The home dept wants a bravery award for API Vikas Dhas, but the forestry ministry is busy bringing three counts of violations of the Wildlife Act by Karad leopard killer

Tanaji Khot

Posted On Monday, January 17, 2011 at 12:36:07 AM

In the Maharashtra government, apparently the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing. While the State’s home department is applauding assistant police inspector (API) Vikas Dhas for saving a man from being mauled by a leopard in Karad last week, and is even considering nominating him for a bravery award, the forest department is busy conducting an inquiry after booking the police officer for killing the wild animal.

Home minister R R Patil, who was in his hometown Sangli on Sunday, publicly appreciated Dhas’ “brave act”, saying, “API Dhas, though this single act, has made Maharashtra police proud. The State government has taken due note of his bravery and presence of mind that saved the lives of many people. We will be declaring an award for Dhas very soon.”

What Patil did not mention was the order issued by the ministry headed by his colleague from Sangli, forests minister Patangrao Kadam, because of which API Dhas has found himself in a legal tangle.

Karad Forest Range Officer B K Padwal told Pune Mirror on Sunday that Dhas had been booked under Sections 2, 9 and 42 of the Wildlife Protection Act, that deal with illegal hunting, possession and transportation of a wild animal. “We are following our procedure. However, we have been going slow due to public sentiment,” he said.

Kadam’s ministry has steadfastly stuck to their stand that the leopard, who might have been hungry, could have been saved. Padwal maintained police did not handle the situation in the right manner. “They should have first evacuated people from the area, and then tried to capture the animal. Our investigations so far show that the leopard was attacked, both by the public and the police. It was shot dead within a matter of eight minutes,” Padwal said.

The forest official said the leopard was hungry and may have entered the town, 160 km south of Pune, on January 9 in search of food. When the big cat was attacked, he retaliated and pinned down a man, Hanumant Mane. At this point, API Dhas arrived on the scene and fired twice at the leopard, killing him.

Dhas told Pune Mirror, “I do not know what the forest officials are talking about. They took my version of the incident on the second day of the incident. After that, they haven’t called me.” The police officer has consistently maintained that the forest department was totally unaware of the ground reality.

Despite facing an inquiry under the Wildlife Protection Act, Dhas is now overwhelmed by the support he has been receiving lately from the police fraternity. “DGP saheb (director general of police D Sivanandan), after seeking information on the incident, handed over Rs 30,000 as an award. He also told me that my name will be recommended for the President’s bravery award,” Dhas told Pune Mirror.

Inspector General of Police (Kolhapur Range) Bagwantrao More, who was in Karad on Friday, met the API and appreciated his act of saving human lives. People of Karad too have come out in his support.

Local environment activist Nana Khamkar has sought a detailed inquiry into the fact that the leopard entered the centre of a big town like Karad. “Forest authorities have a lot of explaining to do. Only six months ago, police had seized a smuggled leopard skin in nearby Umbraj village. Was the big cat caught and brought in Karad by someone? We, as citizens, want to know,” Khamkar said.

Mirror tried contacting Kadam for his version on his office number and cellphone, but there was no response. Dhas, though, is taking the inquiry business in his stride. “It was a split-second decision. I had to choose between the life of a human and an animal. I chose to save the human. I am ready to face the consequences, whatever they may be.”

API Dhas has made Maharashtra police proud. The State government has taken due note of his bravery and presence of mind that saved the lives of many people. We will be declaring an award for Dhas very soon.” —R R Patil, State home minister

It was a split-second decision. I had to choose between the life of a human and an animal. I chose to save the human. I am ready to face the consequences, whatever they may be.”—API Vikas Dhas

bigcatrescue.org

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