Srinagar: “Just how inhuman could anyone be?” was the reaction of animal conservationist and MP Maneka Gandhi after a TV channel showed distressing footage of an endangered black bear being set afire by a group of rowdy villagers who pelted stones at the animal until it died.
The incident exposed the inefficiency of Wildlife Department in the management and protection of wild animals in the Valley. While the wildlife officials blamed the people and the police for the incident, the government later ordered a probe.
The Wildlife Department people had reportedly acted as mute spectators when the bear was first beaten and then ruthlessly set ablaze by the mob. Though the incident took place on November 18, it was kept under carpet till a TV news channel showed the footage of the incident on December 17.
Black bears are a protected animal under the Wildlife Act and their killing is punishable by up to six years' imprisonment. Police started probing the killing in Arigam, a village 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir state, following public outrage after a television news channel last week showed villagers killing the bear.
''We have registered a case and arrested four people so far,'' said Hemant Lohia, a top police officer. The arrests were made Tuesday, he said.
''Officials had reached there but they were helpless before hundreds of villagers carrying batons and stones. It was a shameful act and the government has ordered a probe into the incident,'' said Farooq Ahmed, an officer in the wildlife department.