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AGP rallies against rhino killings

- Prafulla Mahanta blasts Tarun Gogoi for ‘misleading’ people

Jorhat, Oct. 1: It was the AGP’s turn today to protest against the rampant poaching of rhinos in and around Kaziranga National Park in the past few days.

Since last week, there have been a series of protests by several organisations, including All Assam Students’ Union and Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association, at Kaziranga over the sudden spurt in poaching of rhinos.

Today, former chief minister and AGP president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta accompanied by the party top-brass, led a massive rally with the slogan “Kaziranga Bolouk” (Let’s go to Kaziranga), comprising 261 motorcycles, from Koliabar in Nagaon district to Kohora to stage a protest against the government’s failure to protect the state’s official animal.

Addressing a gathering from a makeshift dais (made by joining two trucks), Mahanta said it was quite ironic that the government was observing Wildlife Week from today when it had practically failed to tackle poaching and several rhinos had been killed in the park within a week.

He took chief minister Tarun Gogoi to task for saying that politics was behind the latest wave of protests over rhino killings.

He said Gogoi, instead of pulling up forest minister Rakibul Hussain and asking him to resign by owning responsibility for the failure to protect the rare wildlife species for which Kaziranga is known worldwide, was trying to deflect attention of the public from the issue by making “loose” statements about the number of rhinos killed now being less than those killed during AGP rule.

Lambasting Gogoi for trying to mislead the people over the issue, he said the chief minister was trying to shield the forest minister and making announcements like recommending a CBI inquiry. He said Gogoi had announced a CBI inquiry into the same issue in 2008 too but nothing happened. “This time, too, we doubt there will be a CBI probe into the rhino poaching and that the culprits will be brought to book.”

Later, talking to The Telegraph over phone, Mahanta said the government’s failure to protect rhinos was an important issue apart from that of illegal migrants settling in the state, which, allegedly, included areas of Kaziranga. He said the issue would be coming up for discussion at the party’s foundation day, to be observed centrally at Lakhimpur on October 14.

Working president of the party, Atul Bora, general secretary Kesav Mahanta, former minister Pradip Hazarika, secretary Manoj Bora, former Dergaon MLA Sushila Hazarika and former state Assembly Deputy Speaker Renupoma Rajkhowa were among those present in the meeting.

In another incident, a buffalo strayed out of the park’s Bagori range this morning and fell into a pond at Leprosy Colony along the Nagaon-Karbi Anglong boundary.

Dolmara (Karbi Anglong) forest range officer Prahlad Kro said his staff and along with park staff and a veterinary team from the Centre from Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation near Kaziranga were jointly trying to rescue the animal.

In Guwahati, 40 NGOs today staged a sit-in to protest the unabated poaching of rhinos from Kaziranga.

They also sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention to ensure foolproof protection measures to save the rhinos in the park.