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    Owls, black magic and the Telangana polls: What is the link

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    Bengaluru, Dec 7: What have owls got to do with elections? Nothing, but ever since the Assembly elections were announced in Telangana, there has been a surge in the demand for these birds, which are included in the schedule of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act.

    Owls, black magic and the Telangana polls: What is the link

    The owl and election correlation has come to light when police in Kalaburagi district of Karnataka in southern India questioned six men who were arrested for smuggling two exotic eagle-owls. The Times of India reported that even the police were astonished after listening to the motives behind the smuggling.

    The poacher said a politician contesting elections in Telangana is using the nocturnal birds to help bring misfortune to his rivals.

    According to the police, the owls were being carried by the poachers to be sold for Rs 3-4 lakh a bird. The Indian eagle owl is called Kombina Goobe in southern India for its horn-like feature. There is a blind belief that people can be brought under a spell, especially because the birds have large, unblinking eyes, the report added.

    Also Read | Diwali is a dark time for owls in India: Here's Why

    Driven by religious myths and superstitious beliefs tied to owls, these birds are sought for their body parts such as talons, skulls, bones, feathers, meat and blood, which are then used in talismans, black magic and traditional medicine, apart from the sacrifices.

    Owls in demand during Deepawali

    Owls make way to the Indian bird markets during Diwali to be slaughtered to make the goddess happy. Some believe that sacrificing this nocturnal bird, which is the 'vaahan' of Goddess Lakshmi, known to be the goddess of wealth and prosperity, makes her stay for an entire year.

    Owls in India are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India that prohibits hunting, trade or any other form of utitlisation of the species or their body parts. Their international trade is further restricted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

    The report published by TRAFFIC INDIA, the wildlife trade monitoring network of WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - has revealed that black magic and sorcery driven by superstition, totems and taboos is slowly driving various owl species towards extinction.

    According to the report, of the 30 owl species found in India, 15 have been found to be used in the domestic live bird trade. Large species, particularly those with false "ear-tufts" (feather extensions on the head),are the most highly sought after by traders since these are considered to have greater magical properties.

    Superstitions and Telangana elections

    Superstitions and politicians have an everlasting relationship in Indian politics. Telangana CM KC Chandrasekhar Rao attracted a lot of media attention for lavish 'Yagyam' and belief in 'Vastu'.

    Senior Congress leader and former minister Ramreddy Damodar Reddy, who is contesting from Suryapet assembly constituency, always carries a leather bag while filing his nomination papers.

    He has been doing it since 1985 and he believes the leather bag brings him good luck. He doesn't keep any money in the bag, but has a book, a pen, some medicines and a water bottle.

    Pocharam Srinivas Reddy luck rides in an Ambassador car. He believes taking his favourite Ambassador car to file nomination can bring victory. 

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