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Gogoi smells ‘conspiracy’

Feb. 3: Chief minister Tarun Gogoi today said there was a political conspiracy behind the killing of rhinos in the state.

The government has transferred the in-charge of the Burapahar range of Kaziranga National Park, Ikramul Majid, to Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary in Nagaon district with immediate effect. Jinaram Bordoloi will replace Majid.

Five forest personnel were suspended a few days ago on charge of negligence of duty, leading to the killing of rhinos at the park.

“There are strong reasons to believe that a conspiracy has been hatched to show my government in poor light by the recent spate of poaching of rhinos. Militants and politicians are also involved. I have moved the CBI for a probe. Though the investigating agency earlier declined to probe the rhino killings, the government will vigorously pursue the CBI this time,” Gogoi told reporters at Rajiv Bhawan here.

While eight rhinos have been killed so far this year, 21 were killed last year.

Most of these rhinos were killed in and around Kaziranga National Park. On January 29, forest minister Rakibul Hussain requested the chief minister to ask for a CBI inquiry into the killings.

Hussain said there was a need to find out why poaching continued despite increased patrolling. He also wanted Gogoi to move the home ministry to expedite the allotment of AK-series rifles to forest guards in Assam.

The proposal has been pending with the Centre since last year.

A co-ordination meeting among Kaziranga National Park authorities, district administration officials of Karbi Anglong and Golaghat districts, was held at the park today to chalk out strategies to check rhino poaching.

The meeting was attended by commissioner (hills) Ariz Ahmed.

“In my view, the proximity to Karbi Anglong, coupled with the rising demand for rhino horn, suggests that militants could be financing the recent spate of rhino poaching. We have strong indications that the narcotics trade is also linked to poaching and that there is a revolving door between these and the illegal arms trade. Saving rhinos or elephants, or protecting hardwood in northeastern forests is not a nature conservation issue, it is an issue that concerns the internal security of our nation,” Bittu Sahgal, an environment activist and a member of National Board for Wildlife, told The Telegraph.

Sources said Unesco would convey its concern regarding the situation in Kaziranga and Manas at a meeting of World Heritage Bio-diversity Programme to be held on February 5 in New Delhi.

The AASU will burn the effigy of forest minister Rakibul Hussain throughout the state on Tuesday in protest against increasing killing of rhinos.