By Pamela Raghunath, Correspondent

Six arrested for poaching released under political pressure
Mumbai: A Maharashtra minister's nephew and five others were caught by villagers in Washim district, Maharashtra, for killing a Blackbuck, an endangered animal, and were handed over to police who released the men under political pressure.

However, on the insistence of conservation activists working in central India, the chief Wildlife Warden of Maharashtra S.W.H. Naqvi, an inquiry has been ordered into the Blackbuck poaching case. He has asked Chief Conservator of Forests (Territorial), Yavatmal, and Deputy Conservator of Forests, Akola, to investigate and arrest the offenders.

Like the dedicated tree and nature loving community of Bishnois in Rajasthan, the villagers of Jambharun and Kajalamba in Washim caught Anil Madhukar Naik, nephew of Manohar Naik, Minister of Food and Drugs, and five of his friends on Monday night after a farmer heard gunshots and flood lights near his field and informed the villagers. The poachers had come in an autorickshaw and a new vehicle and also had with them a net, rifle and the Blackbuck that had been shot and killed. The poachers had apparently entered the fields between the two villages, near the Washim wildlife sanctuary and did not expect the villagers to be so alert.

Yet, in spite of the quick action of the villagers, shockingly, the police saw the minister's kin among the poachers and released all six poachers on Tuesday afternoon due to political pressure, The Satpuda Foundation, an NGO working for the protection of wildlife, told Gulf News that the wildlife officials at the forest headquarters based in Nagpur preferred to close their eyes till Tuesday night. Since the Blackbuck is confined to a few areas of the state and country, it is listed as a Schedule-I protected animal under the Wildlife Protection Act and killing a Blackbuck is as bad as killing a tiger and invites punishment up to seven years in jail.

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