Tiger threat casts shadow over Pilibhit, dampens electoral spirit

  • | Thursday | 18th April, 2024

In the serene stretches of Pilibhit district, a menacing spectre looms large, instilling fear among locals and disrupting the democratic fervour as citizens hesitate to tread the paths, wary of lurking tiger threats that cast a pall over the electoral process. Tragedy struck on April 8 when a tiger claimed the life of farmer, Bhole Ram, near Puraini Deep Nagar village, sending shockwaves through the community. Outraged, villagers demanded both protection, and compensation for the bereaved family. The next day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Puranpur area, espousing the cause of Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Jitin Prasada and expressing intentions to showcase the splendor of the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve. However, this proclamation fell on deaf ears among the villagers, gripped by fear. Paras Rai, a denizen of Jamunia village and kin of Bhole Ram, encapsulated the prevailing dread, remarking, Our lives hang in the balance. We never know when a tiger might emerge from the fields, making us or our children its prey. Situated on the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve boundary, the village remains on edge. Residents have beseeched the authorities for extensive combing operations following a spate of tiger attacks, with the predator prowling the outskirts, preying on livestock and instilling terror. The omnipresent threat of tigers has left the populace apprehensive, dissuading many from exercising their voting rights. A villager, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, The spectre of encountering a tiger en route to the polling station has deterred me. I cannot jeopardise my safety for the sake of voting. The fear reverberates across Pilibhit, with heightened tiger activity in Kalinagar tehsil and reports of sightings in villages like Mathna Jabti, Banskheda and Puraini Deep Nagar, leading to tragic human casualties. Even Pandhari and surrounding villages, approximately 12 kilometres from the city centre, are not immune. In a bold act of defiance, residents of Pandhari village raised banners threatening to boycott the Lok Sabha election unless the tiger menace is addressed. Such sentiments resonate in neighboring villages, reflecting the angst of the populace. Samajwadi Party candidate Bhagwat Saran Gangwar visited Bhole Rams family, pledging support and raising the issue during a political rally, echoing sentiments shared by party president Akhilesh Yadav. District Forest Officer Manish Singh acknowledged the challenges posed by the tiger reserves proximity to human settlements, emphasising the governments responsibility to safeguard residents. Efforts are underway to increase patrols and implement deterrent measures, although Singh noted instances where villagers provoke tiger attacks. Assuring residents, Singh stated, We are diligently working to address concerns and ensure safety. However, as Pilibhit grapples with tiger terror, the electoral process hangs in the balance, with authorities under pressure to assuage fears and restore confidence ahead of polling day.

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