When villagers bayed for man-eater's blood

Anger rages over devouring of man by tiger

When villagers bayed for man-eater's blood

Slurping his orange ice candy, Ramesha stood nonchalantly gazing at the chipped human skull, as if he were looking at a science experiment.

Now and then, he would matter of factly direct his fellow villagers towards the mangled remains of the body, which was haphazardly strewn underneath a shrub, attracting a steady stream of people, who looked like they were on a pilgrimage. Some over curious individuals even went as far as touching the skull.

“Yo thatha illi bari burude aite...aakade shava aite nod hogu. Mamsa enu bittilla, ella tindbittaite. (O old man, you’ll only find the skull here. If you walk further up, you will see what’s left of the body),” Ramesha was heard telling an old man, who ambled along the now beaten path.

When asked if he wasn’t feeling queasy looking at the gruesome sight before him, Ramesha said, “What can be done now. He is dead and gone,” continuing to lick his candy.

People had trekked several kilometres to see for themselves whether the stories they have been hearing the last few days were a mere fable or had any truth in them.

Chikkabargi’s ice candy seller ensured that he quenched their thirst, along the winding forest path.

But even before one could acclimatise oneself to the surreality of the scenario, tension gripped the air, with villagers from in and around Chikkabargi (where the man-eater claimed its third victim) baying for blood.

‘Kill the tiger’

They had already expressed their ire by ransacking the Forest department Inspection Bungalow in Chikkabargi and torching the department vehicles on Tuesday evening, when the skull of Basappa, a cattle grazer, was found two km away from his house. His body was found only at 7.30 am on Wednesday, when they heard the tiger roar. It had however scooped out all of his flesh, just leaving skin and bones of Basappa. In the absence of Forest officials, police fired 29 rounds in the direction of the tiger.

Ban orders

Fearing further onslaught from the fuming villagers, Forest department officials went into hiding, refusing to even meet Basappa’s family on Wednesday, attracting antagonism from people of all the surrounding villages.

Not only did the Forest department officials seek refuge under the police department, the latter enforced Section 144 in the area, which made little or no difference to the villagers.
They did not even allow the police to cordon off the spots where the body and skull were found, leaving them completely vulnerable to over curious people.

All they wanted was justice. “But where are the Forest officials? It is mid-noon, almost 12 hours after the attack and the department officials are yet to show up. We want the man-eater shot and killed. The department has to take stock of the situation and end this menace once and for all,” said Shivappa of Hosaholalu, H D Kote taluk.

Mysore Superintendent of Police Abhinav Khare who arrived at the spot tried to pacify the villagers, who were unyielding.

They refused to budge till Deputy Conservator of Forests H C Kantharaju came to the spot. Police were still wary of bringing along Kantharaju. It was Inspector General of Police Ramachandra Rao’s turn to next hold negotiations with the villagers.

The police had even succeeded in gaining the confidence of Basappa’s family members, who agreed to withdraw the protest if they were paid a compensation and a job was provided to a family member.

The villagers, who were kept in the dark about this, immediately became restless. “This negotiation is not just about compensation. We want the tiger shot,” added Shivappa. Eventually Kantharaju braved the crowd and assured them that his department would fulfil all demands.

It was only then that Basappa’s body was allowed to be taken away for an autopsy. A joint search operation for the tiger will resume on Thursday.

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