Pegged at a cost of Rs 32 Lakh, an innocent owl was on the verge of being a sacrificial object at a political aspirant's behest, if not for the timely intervention by the Kollegal Regional Forest officer (RFO). In the last two months, around Chamarajanagara district, the forest officials have booked seven cases of poaching and arrested at least four people in this connection. In their statement, the arrested admitted to the officials that they were procuring the animals at the behest of unknown middlemen for "Vamachara" or "black magic" ceremonies to ensure candidate's victory.
While Vamachara or the invoking of supernatural forces among political aspirants in Karnataka is not unknown phenomenon during elections, the officials at Kollegal, Doddaballapur and Chikkaballapur districts are flooded with series of hits and misses of suspected transportation of animals for sacrificial purposes. Moreover, it is the scale and modus operandi that has baffled the officials. "In the instant case this week, poacher Rangawamy and Madesha both were paid Rs 3 Lakh by a middleman to procure an owl. It was just that we had received a timely tip-off that we were able to arrest the duo at Odeyarpalya-Kannur bus stand at Chamarajanagar. But frankly, we don't know how many other animals were lost to such mindless practice", a forest official said.
The bird whose legs were tied and casually confined within a grocery bag, weighed nearly 2.5 kilogram. During the interrogation by the Kollegal police, the duo confessed that they were specifically told by a middleman to get a heavy and healthy bird for sacrifice. "We just received about 10 percent of the total amount, the tantrik bills the politician not less than Rs 30 Lakh", the confession statement of the duo said.
According to an official, there is a nexus among politicians, middlemen, poachers and tantriks. "Usually, the procurer of the animal does not know who the final receiver is. The animal is handed to atleast five to six middlemen, with every broker adding his profit in the process, before it reaches its destination. Most of the operation is carried out via mobile phone or Whatsapp. The moment a person in the chain is caught, the others simply discard him and switch over to a new sim and the case goes cold", a Kollegal police official said.
Explaining the Vamachara method, 47-year-old former practitioner Shanmukhappa from Chamrajnagara district says that traditionally it was a 48 days old step-by-step process to ensure victory. "The bird is taken to the candidate's home, initial rituals are performed and the bird is buried alive for 48 days. The candidate is supposed to sit next to the burial spot, perform rituals and eat 'prasada' meals. After the 48th day, the skeleton is retrieved and black magic is performed. This would ensure 100 percent victory", he says.
Earlier, they used to catch fox and detain it in their home. "Seeing a fox on a daily basis was considered to bring good luck. However, the flip-side of domestication of a fox was that the animal howled at night and the neighbours confront the home owner for performing black magic. Therefore, the believers have given up on fox and taken to owl as a supplement", the forest official adds.
The officials say that the tantriks use uneducated, unemployed members of the local tribal community for poaching of animals and abetting superstitious practices. “In couple of instances, members of Devanga and Budbudke community have been repeatedly arrested for performing black magic. However, the case was not watertight and merely based on allegation, so they were let off", the official adds.
It should not be mistaken that only the locals at Chamarajanagara are involved in superstitious practices. In the areas bordering Tamil Nadu, there are several inter-state personalities who lay claim of performing miracles and they find easy prey in the form of businessmen and politicians, on whom the stakes of money and power are always high. "It is just that the easy availability of black magic materials and tantriks here draws large clientele. We have reports of several clandestine visits by politicians, film personalities and businessmen to remote places at wee hours spending close to Rs 50 Lakh on superstitious practices", the official added.
Infact, the Karnataka politics is often synonymous for its association with black magic. On Wednesday, a BJP candidate Niranjan Kumar's photo was found at road intersection at Gundlupet. Recently, Narendra Nayak, the President of Federation of Indian Rationalist (FIRA) stamped over a voodoo doll at a cremation ground in Mangaluru-a small chit inside the doll allegedly had the name written of a sitting MLA and Congress candidate from Mangalore South J R Lobo.
Meanwhile, similar to the owl which has been released into the wildlife, Rangawamy and Madesha have also been granted bail and are tentatively free. "Locally, they say it’s just the bird. What’s the big deal? But given the fact that the owl is protected under 1972 Wildlife Protection Act, we expected some stringent action against the suspects because we are sure in about a day or two, they will get back to their old ways", the forest official says.
-By Mohan and Harsha Raj Gatty
Content provided by www.storyinfinity.com (Subs and Scribes Media Ventures LLP)
© Copyright NewsKarnataka 2016 . All Rights Reserved.