Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Fear Grips Pilibhit Villages As Tigers Disrupt Electoral Process

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Fear Grips Pilibhit Villages As Tigers Disrupt Electoral Process

The crisis aggravated on April 8 when a tiger claimed the life of farmer Bholeram near Puraini Deep Nagar village as he toiled in his field. Outraged, villagers demanded protection and compensation for the bereaved family.

Biswajit DasUpdated: Wednesday, April 17, 2024, 09:42 PM IST
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Tiger | Pexels

Lucknow: In the tranquil expanse of Pilibhit district, a menacing threat has emerged, plunging locals into fear and disrupting the democratic process as citizens hesitate to venture out due to the looming danger of tiger attacks, casting a shadow over electoral participation.

The crisis aggravated on April 8 when a tiger claimed the life of farmer Bholeram near Puraini Deep Nagar village as he toiled in his field. Outraged, villagers demanded protection and compensation for the bereaved family.

The following day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Puranpur area, advocating for BJP candidate Jitin Prasada and expressing intentions to showcase the splendor of the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve to the world. However, this declaration failed to resonate with the family members of Bhole Ram and other villagers, who remain gripped by apprehension.

Paras Rai, a resident of Jamunia village and relative of Bhole Ram, encapsulated the prevailing fear, stating, "Our lives hang in the balance. We never know when a tiger might emerge from the fields and make us or our children its prey." The village lies on the boundary of the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR).

Residents had previously urged the administration to conduct extensive combing operations following a fatal tiger attack on a youth in February. Villagers have witnessed the predator prowling on the outskirts, targeting livestock and instilling dread.

The pervasive presence of tigers has left inhabitants wary, with many expressing reluctance to leave their homes and cast their votes. An anonymous resident articulated their fear, stating, "The looming threat of encountering a tiger on the way to the polling station has deterred me. I cannot risk my safety for the sake of voting."

The fear of wildlife persists across five tehsils within Pilibhit, with Kalinagar tehsil experiencing heightened tiger activity over the past eight months. Villages such as Mathna Jabti, Banskheda, Jamuniya, and Puraini Deep Nagar have reported frequent tiger sightings, resulting in tragic human casualties. Similarly, the menace of tigers has gripped Pandari and neighboring villages situated approximately 12 kilometers from the city center.

In a bold statement of protest, apprehensive residents of Pandhari village erected banners threatening to boycott the Lok Sabha election if the administration fails to address the tiger menace. Such sentiments reverberate in villages like Harkishnapur, Pandari, and Nyoriakhurd.

Recognizing the political implications, Samajwadi Party candidate Bhagwat Saran Gangwar visited Bhole Ram's family on April 11, pledging support and raising the issue during a political rally led by party president Akhilesh Yadav in the district on April 12.

Villagers attest to frequent tiger sightings, with Sarvjeet Verma lamenting that this year alone, four individuals have fallen victim to tiger attacks near the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve.

District Forest Officer Manish Singh highlighted the unique challenges posed by the 72,000-hectare tiger reserve intersecting human settlements, blurring forest and sugarcane field boundaries. With an increase in tiger and leopard populations, these apex predators encroach upon sugarcane fields and canal border areas.

With approximately 160 villages near the forested area and tigers encroaching upon 50 villages, Singh emphasized the state government's responsibility to safeguard the 1.25 lakh residents. However, he noted the forest department's contention that villagers often provoke tiger attacks.

Assuring residents, District Forest Officer Singh stated, "We are aware of the situation and are diligently working to address residents' concerns." He outlined efforts to bolster patrols and implement deterrent measures against tiger intrusions, including sensitivity mapping and continuous awareness programs.

As Pilibhit grapples with the dual challenges of tiger terror and electoral participation, the fate of democracy hangs in the balance. With polling day looming, authorities face mounting pressure to deliver swift and effective solutions to allay residents' fears and restore confidence in the electoral process.

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