Indian official lynched for stopping crocodile show called "sacrifice"
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2012:
Indian official lynched for stopping crocodile show called “sacrifice”
BANGALORE–Madan Naik, 54, assistant conservator of forests in Danduli, Karnataka, India, was on May 6, 2012 allegedly dragged from his car and stoned by a group of 16 drunken visitors to Crocodile Valley, a tourist attraction illegally operating on the bank of the Kali River near the Dandelappa temple, inside the Dandeli-Anshi tiger reserve.
“We are shocked that the local police have not taken timely action, nor even promptly booked a case against the crocodile show,” responded the Wildlife Conservation Society of Bangalore in a prepared statement, warning that the police indifference might incite further misuse of wildlife reserves and more violence against officials trying to protect the reserves.
As WCS predicted, forest guard Viresh Hiremath, 45, was fatally clubbed at his post in the Vaderi forest on May 12, 2012. Alleged killer Manjunath Naik was promptly arrested. But that did not deter unidentified assailants who on May 15, 2012 dragged Karnataka administrative service officer S.P. Mahantesh, 48, from his car and beat him with iron bars. Mahantesh, 48, had reportedly been investigating corrupt land deals. He died on May 20, 2012.
Madan Naik “was allegedly assaulted when he tried to prevent the group from throwing meat to the crocodiles, telling them it was dangerous and might result in the reptiles attacking them,” said the Press Trust of India. “Naik had gone to the temple when he saw the unauthorised crocodile show being organized,” elaborated the Hindustan Times. “The forest department had earlier stopped the illegal crocodile show, but the owner of a local resort restarted it.” The India Broadcasting Network, the Indian CNN affiliate, reported that the resort owner had twice been charged with illegal hunting.
“The illegal feeding of crocodiles in Kali River was raised in the Legislative Council by Congress member Ghotnekar Shrikant Laxman in December 2011,” reported the Deccan Herald. “The reptiles are finding easy access to food and their population is increasing,” complained Laxman.
“Though several complaints have been lodged against the owner of Crocodile Valley,” identified as farmer Shivaram Patil, “the Dandeli wildlife sanctuary took no action,” charged Deccan Herald reporter Subhash Chandra.
“We complained to the Forest Department several times, to no avail,” Creative Nature Friends director Rohan Bhate told Chandra. “The 15 or 20 reptiles are visible only from Patil’s farm. They breed there and he even sells baby crocodiles. We rescued one in 2009 and released it in Chandoli National Park,” Bhate testified.
Continued Chandra, “When the Deccan Herald contacted Patil, he denied the charges, saying he had permission from former District Conservator of Forests B.B. Mallesh and the Tourism Department to entertain tourists. He also denied that he sold young crocodiles and their eggs.”
Responded Mallesh, “We cannot give permission to any private person for such activities. If what Patil says is true, let him furnish the letter of permission. In fact, we booked a case against him in 2011 and he is out on bail.”
Karnataka principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden Deepak Sharma told the Deccan Herald that armed guards would be stationed where Madan Naik was killed, to prevent further incidents.
“The tourists had come to the park accompanied by Dandeli municipal council employee Aravind Chavan and his wife Shailaja Chavan, a teacher in a government primary school in Dandeli,” along with Bagalkot sub -Inspector S.R. Naik and an assistant sub-inspector, said Bengaluru Today.
“The goons not only thrashed and assaulted Madan Naik,” dragging him out of his car, “but also abused and assaulted family members,” including his wife Sumathi, his daughter Meghana, and a son, who was not named, added the human rights advocacy web site Wake India Now.
“Police at Dandeli station could have saved Madan Naik,” charged M. Raghuram of the Daily News & Analysis. Instead, after Madan Naik came seeking help, “They made him wait for six hours. They shifted him to the hospital only after he collapsed.”
“There was none to hear our complaint at the police station,” Meghana Naik told the Deccan Herald. “The police were conducting themselves as if they were under severe pressure. The condition of my father worsened as we spent hours together at the police station.” Madan Naik was pronounced dead at the SDM Medical College Hospital in Dharwad. An autopsy found the cause of death to be a blood clot in his brain.
Members of the Association of Deputy Conservators of Forests, Forest Guards and Forest Watchers joined local residents in blocking the main road into Dandeli during a five-hour protest and vigil over Madan Naik’s remains. The protest ended after police superintendent K.T. Balakrishna promised in person to investigate the case.
However, “The cover-up by local police didn’t end,” alleged Wake India Now. Instead, the local police accepted a complaint that Madan Naik had committed an “atrocity,” apparently by allegedly interrupting a religious sacrifice. The local police also “forcefully made Madan Naik’s family sign a document which said that the family has accepted the apology from the culprits who ‘verbally abused’ them. There was no mention of physical assault,” Wake India Now reported.
Karnataka Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda announced on May 10, 2012 that the investigation of Naik’s death would be taken over by the state Criminal Investigation Department. Six of the 16 alleged assailants were subsequently arrested.
A former lecturer at the Haveri Engineering College, Madan Naik turned to wildlife and forest conservation work later in life, earning several promotions.
“I am studying for a masters degree in science at M.S. Ramaiah College in Bangalore and my sister Grishma is pursuing a course in architecture. My brother has taken a university entrance exam. The earnings of our father was the only source to fund our education,” Meghana Naik told the Deccan Herald. Public officials promised that the family would receive compensation for Madan Naik’s death.