Santhals hunting voyage on the verge of extinction

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Baripada, Apr 23 (UNI) The Santhals' centuries-old mass hunting excursion and some of the cultural ethos and traditions connected with the hunting voyage are on the verge of extinction.

The Santhal tribals call it ''Deshua Shikar'', while others call it ''Akhand Shikar'' when large groups of tribals armed with bows and arrows, spears and huntings axes sneak into the Simlipal sanctuary through untrodden paths and unleash a killing spree of the protected animals.

The santhal social activists and the ''Dehuris'' (priests) blamed it on the Section 9 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 which prohibited hunting of any wild animal included in the 'graded schedule' of the act.

With the vanishing mass hunting excursion, some of the interesting cultural ethos associated with the hunting have also vanished, they argued.

According to one Gurva Soren, Secretary of a Mayurbhanj-based tribal NGO the ''Dongel'' dance which the Santhals used to perform before the beginning of the hunting ritual has virtually become extinct.

The tribe's Dehuris also used to perform some rituals to invoke the blessings of the ''Sendra Bonga'' (Shikar Debata) before setting out for the hunting voyage, Soren said.

With the ban on hunting, the ''Lo, Bir Baisi'' another important cultural etho of the tribe has also vanished.

The Simlipal Tiger Reserve (STR) sources said despite massive deployment of the Simlipal Tiger Protection Forces(STPF) and strengthening of the anti-poaching surveillance, two major attempts were made by the tribal shikaris to sneak into the reserve during the current season.

A group of nearly 250 shikaris armed with bows and arrows made an attempt to enter into the reserve from Talbundh village on April 18 last, while another group of nearly 800 shikaris attempted to sneak into the sanctuary from Baniabasa village.

Thanks to the ''intelligence wing'' of the reserve who could get advance information about the contemplated move of shikar from Baniabasa and Talbundh, and could prevent both the attempts through persuasions and vigilance of the STPF.

Mr Reddy said nearly 311 STPF people stationed in 54 anti-poaching camps established in animal-rich areas are on a round-the-clock vigil to make 2008 - a shikar-less year.

This apart three sections of Armed Police Reserve) (APR)have been deployed - one each to Pithabata, Udala and Khejuri-- in case of any exigency, the Conservator pointed out.


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