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Tiger Poacher Brought Back From Dead

WPSI – 9 November 2012

The tigress Sita was the star attraction at Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve for many years. She featured in a number of films and books and appeared on the cover of National Geographic Magazine in December 1997. She was said to be the most photographed tiger in the world. With her mate Charger, Sita added a sizable number of tigers to the park. In fact many of Bandhavgarh's current tigers are her descendants.  Sita was seen on the last day of the tourist season, 30th June 1998, and then briefly by a forest officer on 20th August. But when the park opened again after the monsoon, in October 1998, she had vanished. Exhaustive searches by the Forest Department turned up nothing and her disappearance caused a furore.

A year later, acting on a tip off, the Manpur police seized a tiger skin and 130 pieces of tiger bone and eventually four men were arrested by the police; 1) Ram Milan Sahu alias Millu, 2) Raghavendra Singh alias Jhallu, 3) Shringar Singh Baheliya, and 4) Kailash Baheliya. The four accused tiger poachers confessed that they had killed Sita after trapping her in a steel trap near Salaidha tiraha in Gohadi area at the end of the monsoon season of 1998. Investigations were completed and a case was lodged in 2000 in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate Umaria.

In 2003, defense lawyers produced a death certificate for Kailash Baheliya given by the head of Pathari-khurd village in Umaria District. On the basis of that Kailash was discharged from the case, and in 2005 the case ended in a conviction of three years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 10,000 for each the three other accused. Their appeal in the Umaria court was dismissed in 2008 and they later appealed their conviction in the Jabalpur High Court, where the matter is still pending.

For the past nine years, WPSI's informers reported from time to time that Kailash was in fact still alive and that he was moving around killing wild pigs. It was even said that he was visiting Umaria frequently. But considering the complex legalities no enforcement agency was willing to touch him; on record he was dead, and the case was sub-judice.

Finally, Kailash Baheliya's luck ran out. On 15th September this year, he was picked up by the Chhattisgarh police for illegal possession of gunpowder, and released on a personal bond. He gave a fake name, KalyanSingh, which he had been living under for nearly a decade. The ever-alert WPSI informers zeroed in on the information and informed us. In turn, we quickly contacted the police in Chhattisgarh, and helped established his identity with witnesses and identification reports from the 1999 Sita tigress poaching case. When the accused was fingerprinted it was found that he had damaged his left thumb to try and obliterate the identification lines. Even so, his thumb impression still matched the old records.

On an application by the Manpur police the Jabalpur High Court finally provided all the relevant documents. On the basis of this the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Umaria rejected his bail application on 23 October, and issued a production warrant on 1 November 2012.

Kailash Baheliya is now finally behind bars in Madhya Pradesh and will face trial for the killing of Sita.

WPSI field personnel recently dug out yet another case pending against this poacher and have alerted the authorites. Kailash was arrested at Chandiya in 1999 for killing a wild boar and 25 gm wild boar hair were seized from him. The case, dating back to February 2000, has been pending all these years in the same court where the Sita tigress poaching case was tried. The accused never appeared in the trial.

Fate has finally caught up with Kailash Baheliya. He will now face a trial, not just for killing the famous tigress Sita or the wild pig, but also for making a mockery of the law by faking his own death.



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