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Adivasi boy shot at by guards of ‘shoot-first’ Kaziranga national park

The Ecologist magazine reports: A 7-year old boy has been injured after getting shot by park guards in  Assam’s Kaziranga national park, which operates a strict ‘shoot first’ policy. In the last nine years, an estimated 62 people have been shot dead by Kaziranga guards, four of whom were ironically arrested for alleged rhino poaching recently.

The Ecologist

A seven year old tribal boy is reportedly in a critical condition after being shot by a park guard in a national park in northeast India, notorious for its brutal ‘shoot to kill’ policy towards suspected poachers.

The boy, named in reports as Akash Oram, is a member of the Oroan tribe who live around Kaziranga national park. He sustained serious injuries to his legs, and is being treated in hospital.

Two park guards have been suspended after the shooting, following an outcry from local tribal people. Akash’s village is facing eviction. Ther issue was recently highlighted inThe Ecologist after Prince William and Kate visited the park earlier this year.

The incident raises serious concerns over the advisability of the ‘shoot to kill’ policy, which has seen at least 62 people killed in the park over a nine year period. This militarized approach to conservation has had serious consequences for local tribal people, who face arrest and beatings, torture and even death in the name of conservation.

Madegowda C, a tribal rights activist from the Soliga people in southern India, said: “The Kaziranga park director is violating the human rights and constitutional rights of the tribal people … Forest conservation is not possible without tribal and local communities. Most of the forest officials do not understand the relationship between the forest and tribal peoples – they need to understand tribal cultures and our lifestyles in the forest. Tribal peoples are the indigenous people of this country and they are human beings.”

The Hindustan Times has reported that other tribal people in the area have been shot as ‘poachers’ just for wandering over the park boundaries to retrieve cattle or collect firewood. A 2014 report by the park’s director revealed that Kaziranga park guards are encouraged to execute suspected ‘poachers’ on sight with slogans including “must obey or get killed” and “never allow any unauthorized entry (kill the unwanted).”

Locals near the park are reportedly paid to inform on suspected poachers. If someone is subsequently killed, the informant is given up to $1,000.

Government should tackle the real criminals!

Former Environment and Forests minister Prakash Javadekar from Narendra Modi’s BJP party, planned to implement the policy nationwide, despite human rights concerns and the acute risk of guards killing or wounding innocent people.

This is despite the fact that in BRT tiger reserve in southern India, where tribal peoples have won the right to stay on their ancestral land and militarized conservation tactics are not used, tiger numbers have increased at well above the Indian national average, demonstrating that militarization is not necessary for successful conservation.

Targeting tribal people diverts action away from tackling the true poachers – criminals conspiring with corrupt officials. Earlier this year, four Kaziranga officials were arrested on suspicion of poaching and involvement in the illegal wildlife trade.

Militarized conservation tactics are not only used in India. In Cameroon for example, Baka ‘Pygmy’ people have repeatedly testified to beatings and torture at the hands of eco-guards. Likewise in Botswana, Bushmen are criminalized when they hunt to feed their families, and face arrest and beatings.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “It’s time for a global outcry to stop innocent tribal people being shot and killed in the name of conservation. Why are the big conservation organizations complicit in these lethal policies which are useless at tackling the true poachers – criminals conspiring with corrupt officials? It’s no good pretending this is an isolated accident, it’s an integral part of the murderous regime running this tiger reserve.”

Draft Forest Policy foresees mass evictions of tribal communities

The shocking attack comes just a month after the Indian Government’s environment ministry published what it announced was the ‘draft national forest policy 2016‘, which made no mention of tribal peoples’ existing rights to live in their forests, and would have led to more tribes being evicted from their homes.

The draft policy proposed that: “Voluntary and attractive relocation packages of villages from within national parks, other wildlife rich areas and corridors should be developed.”The proposal to evict people from the vaguely described “other wildlife rich areas” and“corridors” as well as National Parks and Tiger Reserves would cover a huge area affecting millions of tribal people who have have been dependent on and managed their environments for millennia.

However the ‘policy’ was removed a few days later after it caused an outcry from indigenous groups, and a statement was issued claiming that the document was merely a study by the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), which had been “inadvertently uploaded.” Indian news website Live Mint quoted an anonymous ministry official: “[The] U-turn came after intense criticism of the draft policy from civil society.”

Across India tribal peoples are being illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of conservation. Most so-called ‘voluntary relocations’ are far from voluntary, with tribal people often given no choice – they face arrest and beatings, harassment, threats and trickery and feel forced to ‘agree’ to leave their forest homes.

The speedy withdrawal of this ‘draft policy’ has been welcomed, but huge concern remains at what lies ahead for the tens of millions of India’s tribal people who live in forests, and other forest dwellers – concerns that have only been fuelled by the shooting of an indigenous child at Kazaringa.

62 killed in Indian Park Hosting Royals

Survival International
The Kaziranga National Park and tiger reserve is the focus of a brutal shoot to kill policy that has seen 62 people shot dead by wildlife guards in just nine years. Kaziranga National Park in Assam state has become infamous across India for its extrajudicial executions. Armed guards summarily execute anyone they suspect of poaching, and local people are reportedly offered cash rewards for informing on people they suspect of involvement. The guards are given immunity from prosecution. The shoot to kill policy has attracted criticism from conservation charities for encouraging violence, rather than effectively tackling the criminal networks behind poaching. It was implemented by Bishan Singh Bonal, the former head of the Park, who now leads the Indian National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Park guards arrested for poaching in “shoot to kill” wildlife reserve
Survival International
Four staff members at the Indian National Park that recently hosted Prince William and Katherine have been arrested for alleged involvement in rhino poaching. An investigation has been launched into links between Kaziranga park guards – who carry guns and are encouraged to shoot poachers on sight – and poaching networks. The news comes just weeks after Survival International revealed that 62 people have been shot dead in the park by wildlife guards in just nine years, under a brutal “shoot to kill” policy. The arrests raise questions over the advisability of a militarized approach to wildlife conservation, which can lead to guards’ involvement in poaching, and human rights abuses.

India’s ‘shoot on sight’ conservation terrorises indigenous communities
Lewis Evans, The Ecologist
The endangered Bengal Tiger and One-horned Rhino desperately need protection, writes Lewis Evans. But in India’s Kaziranga National Park, ‘fortress conservation’ includes a brutal ‘shoot on sight’ policy that is terrorising local communities, many of them tribal. Indigenous peoples are the natural allies of conservation and need to be engaged in constructive solutions – not shot!

Number One With a Bullet
Rowan Jacobsen, Outside Magazine
What does India’s lush Kaziranga National Park have that the rest of the country’s decimated reserves do not? Plenty of tigers, for starters. (The world’s highest ­density.) Fleets of endangered one-horned rhinos. (More than two-thirds of the remaining population.) And, since 2010, a take-no-prisoners anti-poaching policy that allows rangers to shoot on sight.

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