New Delhi, June 30: Sansar Chand, the man accused of killing more tigers than anyone else in the country, was hunted down this morning after a three-month search as the elusive poacher prayed in his west Delhi hideout.
Ironically, it was his five-year-old son who inadvertently led police to the 47-year-old, known as the “Veerappan of the North”.
Delhi police commissioner K.K. Paul, who had set up a special force to flush out the poacher, said: “Only one name figures when the dwindling tigers in Sariska are discussed ' Sansar Chand. He is a major catch for us.”
A CBI probe, started under instructions from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who visited the forest reserve, had named Chand as the prime suspect behind the disappearance of the big cats.
Chand has been preying on wildlife since he was 12, when he joined his uncle in smuggling animal skin. His first conviction came at the age of 16. The second and last time he was convicted was in a case in Bhilwara, Rajasthan, in January 2003.
In the strictest punishment ever awarded under the Wildlife Act, Chand was sentenced to five years in jail in April 2004. Three weeks later, he was granted bail. After that, he vanished.
Today’s arrest followed an earlier raid in which the police had stumbled on a file of newspaper clippings on Chand’s first wife, Rani Saini, and another son, Akash, jailed after a seizure of leopard parts. The police team started keeping a watch on vendors selling Hindi dailies, particularly Rajasthan Patrika and Dainik Bhaskar.
For three months, the police kept vigil, disguised as courier agents, postmen, vegetable sellers, hawkers and tea-sellers.
“On Thursday, a lame beggar came and bought these newspapers from a vendor. He took them to a temple in West Patel Nagar and left them there. After a few minutes, a boy came and picked up the papers. We just followed him to a house very close to the temple and asked for Sansar Chand. He was there praying and he replied ‘yes’,” said Joy Tirkey, who headed the special Crime Branch team.
Accused of killing hundreds of tigers, Chand and his gang members have at least 57 cases from September 1974 to April 2005 pending against them in nine states ' Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Paul said Chand patronised poachers from many states. In 1991, Rajasthan police arrested a gang of tribals who confessed to killing 15 to 18 tigers in two years. They said the skin and bones were being supplied to Chand. In August 1994, a trader arrested in Jabalpur with 50 kg of tiger bones, two tiger skulls and 145 claws said he had sold a consignment to a Chand associate.