Jorhat, Jan. 20: Four persons were arrested in a joint operation by police and forest personnel in the wee hours today for their alleged involvement in the killing of a leopard at Oguri Shyamgaon in Charaideo subdivision of Sivasagar district on Friday.
A mob had beaten the full-grown male leopard to death and mutilated the carcass at the village under Sonari police station and Borhat range of the forest department.
The arrested persons are Bibekananda Koeri, Bipin Bora, Kesab Bora and Chandan Konwar.
Divisional forest officer (Sivasagar) Diganta Borbaruah said on the basis of evidence gathered by the forest and police departments, four persons have been arrested from number 2 Lukhrakhan gaon — one of the villages that constitute Oguri Shyamgaon.
Borbaruah said all the four accused were among the group of about 10 people who instigated the crowd and led the attack on the leopard and mutilated the carcass of the big cat. He said the investigating team had found “strong evidence” from video footage and still visuals telecast and published in the media and most of the culprits have been identified.
Borhat range officer Prasanta Gogoi said the four have been booked under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (amended in 2002), with a case (Number: 20/13) being registered at Sonari police station. Gogoi said statements of the arrested persons have been recorded and interrogation was on. “We will get the names of others involved in the crime from them (arrested people) and they will be arrested,” the range officer said.
The four accused will be produced at the subdivisional court in Sonari tomorrow.
The range officer said the leopard is an animal listed in the Schedule 1 of the wildlife protection law and killing such an animal is a crime, under which if a person is convicted, could get an imprisonment up to five years.
He said there is a need to create awareness among the people residing in the fringes of reserve forests and tea gardens as leopards often stray out to these areas, resulting in man-animal conflicts. He said people might not be aware that killing a leopard was a crime.
Borbaruah said the department plans to carry out sensitisation drives by involving NGOs associated with wildlife protection and conservation. He said tea estate managements, too, would be asked to assist in organising such drives among the labourers.
Incidents of leopards getting killed and humans being injured as a result of man-animal conflicts have been on the rise in Upper Assam in the past few years. Another incident took place around 13 days back when a leopard was allegedly killed at Beesakopie tea estate in Tinsukia district.
Assam forest minister Rakibul Hussain issued a directive in Guwahati yesterday to all DFOs to file an FIR against anybody who kills or even attacks wildlife. Hussain also announced that a forest official, if attacked, should file an FIR too.