During the Seventies and 80s, Ramesh Sikarwar and his gang of dacoits in Chambal usually spent their nights in a forest – identified at the moment as Kuno National Park – in Madhya Pradesh.
It is that this age-old connection that impressed 72-year-old Sikarwar to return ahead as a “cheetah friend” within the nationwide park. “The Kuno forest sheltered us, protected us. We had a deep love for the forest. Now it’s time for me to protect it,” he says.
Fear nonetheless prevails within the area by the title of Sikarwar – the dreaded former dacoit was accused of round 70 murders and 300 kidnappings. Now, he’s a farmer and certainly one of 500 Cheetah Mitras from 51 villages within the space who’ve been skilled to create consciousness amongst villagers concerning the animal. Other volunteers embody faculty lecturers, village heads and patwaris.
“Once we came to know that cheetahs were coming, we started running awareness campaigns about cheetahs in the surrounding villages. It was the proposal of the Madhya Pradesh government to set up Cheetah Mitras, who would basically act as informers for the forest department and keep us informed about the activities in and around Kuno National Park. They will also be responsible for running their own awareness campaigns about cheetahs among the villages and the local population. In July, when we started these campaigns, we asked volunteers to be cheetah friends. Only then did Sirkarwar, who is famous in the region, come forward,” says chief wildlife warden Madhya Pradesh JS Chauhan.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sirkarwar described his previous life and his flip to dacoity: “I used to be simply 23 after I turned a baaghi (dacoit). My uncle grabbed our property and refused to offer it regardless of having property in my father’s title, my father needed to depart Laharoni village. We have been poor, he was wealthy. We had shifted to a different village. When I used to be older, and my father handed away, my sister was getting married, I went to my uncle to offer it to my sister’s wedding ceremony. he refused. I shot him and ran away,” he says.
Over the subsequent few years, Sirkarwar was to arrange a gang of 32 dacoits that will function in Gwalior, Morena, Guna, Jhansi, Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh and 12 different districts of Rajasthan.
“We have been all from poor households who have been pushed to turn into rebels. Most of the problems we labored on as a gang have been associated to property disputes, the place the police and administration all the time supported the Amir celebration. There was nobody to handle the poor. They didn’t get justice, so we gave them justice. Over the years, we carried out greater than 300 kidnappings, the place we used to kidnap the sons of wealthy fathers and demand ransom of Rs 2-4 lakh. We have been protected, given meals and shelter by the villagers. We used to maneuver round continually to flee the police – altering locations two-three occasions a day. Breakfast in a single place, lunch in one other, dinner within the third village. At evening we slept within the woods – usually we slept in what’s now referred to as Kuno National Park,” he says.
Sikarwar’s gang surrendered to the authorities in 1984. Sirkarwar says he was by no means convicted because the authorities couldn’t discover any witnesses to testify in opposition to him. He spent 10 years in jail in the course of the trial, and was launched in 1994. His gang members have been jailed for twenty years. He returned to his village Laharoni, claimed his land and turned to farming after 20 years of being a dacoit.
The Sheopur space, the place the park is situated, has a great quantity of poaching by the Sahariya and Mogia tribes. MP forest officers say that cheetah associates have already been affected. Last month, a leopard was discovered useless within the park, and primarily based on info from cheetah associates within the space, forest officers nabbed the 4 accused answerable for the homicide.
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Sirkavar nonetheless lives in Laharoni, barely 5 kilometers from Kuno National Park, rising wheat, mustard and soybeans together with his kids and grandchildren. For their “protection” they’ve been given two rifles and ammunition by the federal government.
He says: “I’ve already instructed those who they won’t enter Kuno National Park and nobody goes to assault the cheetahs. If anybody does, or if we discover the poachers, they must face the implications on my half. ,
With inputs from TheIndianEXPRESS