Operation Co-operation II

On the 29th of January 2005, Vakil got some information about a Mogiya tribal – Rajmal -who was regularly killing and selling the meat of Sambar deer and Wild Boar, in Bhairopura village in the Man Singh Sanctuary, a part of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. We met the Deputy Field Director – Mr. Bhardwaj – in the morning and gave him the information. He gave us the go ahead for conducting a raid on this Mogiyas area and asked us to go along with the Range Officer (Project Tiger) and some forest guards. We were supposed to meet the officer in the Raj Bagh Forest Check post at sunset.

Ranthambore tiger

In the evening 5 of us – Dharmendra Khandal (Field Biologist), Vakil Mohammed (Safari jeep owner and driver), Rafiq (Nature Guide), Lokesh (a hawker who make a living selling T-shirts to tourists) and I – left for the Raj Bagh check post. The Range Officer along with a driver and a forest guard was waiting for us. He wanted to take us for “patrolling” along the main highway to Madhya Pradesh (the central Indian state that borders Ranthambhore). We told him our plan about trying to bust Rajmal Mogiya. He was not at all keen on any raid and tried to convince us that such raids can be very “risky” in the night and that there were too few of us to execute it. That did not make sense to us because we thought that 8 people (5 of us and three forest officials, including the ranger, who was armed) were more than enough to catch one man who would be in a hut in an agricultural field, way outside the village. After a lot of arguments (which I would not even like to mention) he agreed to come along but insisted that neither he nor any of the forest official would carry out the actual raid. They said that they would take us to the location where we thought Rajmal would be and they would wait near that location, while the 5 of us carried out the actual raid. In case they thought that the raid would get out of hand they would leave. That was acceptable to us and we left.

We reached Bhairopura at midnight and soon located Rajmal’s beaten up motorcycle parked at the edge of an agricultural field. The ranger’s jeep dropped us close to where the motor-cycle was parked and we went inside the fenced field while the forest officials waited in the jeep. We found Rajmal sleeping on a wooden cot. There were a few empty bottles of “moonshine” alcohol near the bed and one cooking pot. Rajmal was obviously knocked out drunk. We checked the cooking pot and found a lot of blood and some meat sticking to the base of the pot. We also found a wooden log that was covered with blood and it appeared as if someone had slaughtered an animal on top of this log. That was all we needed to be con-vinced that Rajmal had killed some wild animal recently. We surrounded Rajmal’s cot and shook him awake. As soon as he got up he started shouting and tried to run. We pinned him down but he continued to shout as if he was trying to warn someone else. There was a lot of shouting and I don’t clearly remember the sequence of events that followed for the next 15 minutes or so. I remember the Forest jeep driving up to the edge of the field, a lot of pushing and shoving between Rajmal and three of us. Suddenly another man (who was probably sleeping in another cot close by) got up and started running. Lokesh and Dharmendra ran after him and caught him after a brief chase. By that time the ranger was screaming at us to get out of there. We put the two people that we had caught inside the jeep and got out of there. We drove straight to the Falodi Range Office.

sambar deer fawn

In the Falodi Range Office – the Falodi Range Officer – Mr. Kala, a burly Sikh officer – started interrogating Rajmal and the other person. After a lot of very patient cross question-ing, Rajmal admitted that he had killed a porcupine. We did not believe him because the amount of blood that we had seen could not have come out of a small animal like the porcu-pine. That’s when Mr. Kala decided that we should go back to the location where we had caught Rajmal and search the entire place with a toothcomb. It was almost four in the morn-ing by the time we reached the filed and all of us were very excited. After searching the field for an hour we found two gunnysacks full of Sambar deer (Cervus unicolor – see picture below) meat. The deer had been cut up into large sized pieces and stuffed in the sack. Soon we found a loaded gun (a muzzle loader) and a lot of gunpowder. Rajmal was busted – fair and square – and he ad-mitted that he had killed the sambar the night before and that he had sold half the meat. He also told us that the other person that we had caught was also involved in the sale.

sambar deer stags in rut

We got together all the evidence and took both the persons that we had caught to the Forest Department’s head quarters in the Sawai Madhopur town. The Deputy Field Director (Mr. Bhardwaj) and a lot of other forest officials were waiting for us. Mr. Kala had informed them about the raid. It took another few hours to get the entire paperwork (for their prosecution) done and by the time we were finished it was almost noon. We were exhausted but did not feel it because of the excitement. All of us were on top of the world and felt that we had done our bit to help save Ranthambhore’s wildlife.

It felt good.

family of a tiger poacher

Top: Rajmal’s wife and one of his three daughter-in-laws, a few days after Rajmal Mogiya was arrested by us for killing a Sambar deer. At that time we did not know that he was involved in killing of tigers. A few months later we came to know that between 2003 and 2004 he was involved in the poaching of over 6 tigers in and around Ranthambhore.