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PoliticsIndiaSarma, another Assam minister, Sadhguru accused of violating wildlife law

Sarma, another Assam minister, Sadhguru accused of violating wildlife law

Amid allegations of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev violating Wild Life (Protection) Act by enjoying night safari at Kaziranga National Park, Head of Forest Force and Chief Wildlife Warden MK Yadava on 25 September dismissed the charge as part of some vested interests' bid to defame the national park. He defended the chief minister and the guru, saying they were invited and it would be wrong to say that they entered the park and enjoyed the safari late at night.

The chief minister has himself denied allegations by two activists that he, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and Tourism Minister Jayanta Malla Baruah had violated the wildlife law by entering Kaziranga National Park for a night safari. Activists Soneswar Narah of Morongial Gaon and Pradeep Pegu of Balijan Adarsha Mishing Gaon had filed a police complaint, alleging that the ministers and the guru entered the national park, home to the Indian one-horned rhino, much beyond the scheduled visit time on 24 September.

The activists had filed the complaint at the Bokakhat police station, about 230 km east of Guwahati. The is where the headquarters of the national park is located. “We demand legal action against the Chief Minister and the others who violated rules in going on a nocturnal jungle safari. They should also issue a public apology for setting a precedent that could threaten the traditional security policy of the national park,” their complaint in Assamese read.

The activists claimed the Wildlife Act, 1972, bans safari tours inside the national park after a scheduled time to protect the animals and keep their habitat relatively untouched.

Videos on social media and local channels show Sadhguru driving an open safari SUV along with Sarma and Baruah. Sadhguru drove about 2 km inside the tiger reserve after the inauguration of a rhino memorial 2 h behind the 3:30 PM schedule on Saturday. Chief Minister Sarma was on the seat while Minister Baruah sat in the back of the vehicle along with officials and guards.

Ashes of 2,479 rhinoceros horns burnt a year ago had gone into the construction of the memorial.

Environment activists have panned the night safari. “Evening safari after sunset in Kaziranga! Is this not violation of Section 27 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act?” asked Rohit Choudhury based in Golaghat district’s Garmur. The section restricts the entry in a wildlife sanctuary of any individual other than a public servant on duty.

“It is unfortunate that someone like Sadhguru, who we expect to practice what he preaches, has no sensitivity towards animals. It is common knowledge that wild animals in their protected homes get disturbed by lights and noises of vehicles at night,” said Golaghat-based Apurba Ballave Goswami.

The nocturnal outing in Kaziranga amounts to teasing or molesting wild animals, restricted under Section 27 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, activists said, also slamming Forest Department officials for “bowing to VIP pressure”.

However, the chief minister said, "There is no violation. According to the wildlife law, the warden can give permission to enter a protected area even at night. No law stops people from entering at night. Yesterday, we had the formal opening of the park for this season and now that Sadhguru and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had arrived, and since they have lakhs of followers, this time we expect the tourist season will be very good for Kaziranga."

Sadhguru's Isha Foundation said in a statement that he had been invited by the government. "We believe all the necessary permissions were taken by the government for this special occasion," it said.

Field of the Forest Department said the park would be open for VIPs for four days as a special case. The four days coincide with a ‘Chintan Shivir’ at Kaziranga, where some leading spiritual gurus are taking part.

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