Hazaribagh/Ranchi, Sept. 9: Trust the “god” to appear in flesh and blood.
Residents of a Jharkhand village today woke up to the sight of a herd of wild elephants resting nearby but, instead of panicking, folded their hands in prayer.
Monday was Ganesh Chaturthi — a popular religious festival when devotees worship the elephant-headed god, the divine “remover of obstacles”.
The 13-strong herd, which included a month-old calf, had settled near a pond after going on the rampage at a heritage structure near Hazaribagh early this morning.
The herd had stampeded into Gibraltar House, smashing its fence, breaking furniture and devouring roots of potted plants before breaking the boundary wall of two private properties on the way to Jagdishpur village on the foothills of the nearby Canary Hills.
“For the outside world, it might look like menacing. For us, it was the most auspicious occasion. Elephants are generally peace-loving animals and I don’t consider their visit as an attack at all,” PTI quoted D. Mallik, the owner of the British-era heritage building, as saying.
The British used to call the Canary Hills the Gibraltar of India because of its resemblance to the rock. That’s how the building got its name.
No human casualty was reported but the pre-4am attack on the building — the first such in Hazaribagh — has led to concerns whether industrial activity had permanently encroached on traditional jumbo corridors.
While villagers said it was a “lucky” omen, forest officials and environment experts said the jumbo visit may have more to do with human trespass than luck.
Hazaribagh divisional forest officer (east) Ajit Singh, who claimed the herd was from Bengal, said elephants usually follow a fixed route in Jharkhand, through Dumka, Jamtara, Giridih, the fringes of Dhanbad-Bokaro and Bagodar-Chalkuja village before reaching Ichak and Daru blocks in Hazaribagh district. “Their diversion to Canary Park may be because of some obstruction in normal movement. Food is also a major issue.”
Bulu Imam, an environment expert and the Hazaribagh convener of heritage body Intach, who claimed the herd was from Jharkhand, said mining and industrial development across the North Karanpura circuit — the site of constructions by corporations like DVC and NTPC — had disturbed the traditional elephant corridor from Patratu to Palamau.
“Elephants search for alternative routes and end up confused, hungry and angry,” he said, adding the situation might worsen. “There will be a grand motorable stretch from Ranchi to Patna but at great expense to the flora and fauna. Elephants will be completely bewildered,” he said, warning that the bypass would reduce the Canary Hills to a “molehill”.
Imam has requested highway authorities to route the bypass from the eastern side of the Canary Hills to protect the area’s ecology as far as possible.