A Delhi High Court lawyer and his friend were seriously injured in an attack on a group of birdwatchers allegedly by a local priest and his goons at Mangar Bani, a forest area on the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway on Sunday morning.

Noida resident Mukul Talwar had gone to Mangar Bani along with his daughter, friend Vijay Dhasmana and his wife Ruchi for bird watching and was part of a larger group comprising 30-odd bird enthusiasts. Mr. Talwar fractured his arm in a bid to save himself from being hit on the head while Mr. Dhasmana sustained head injuries and received stitches.

Recalling the incident , Mr. Talwar said that the priest asked them to go away when they reached Mangar Bani threatening them of dire consequences. “We had reached the area a little earlier than the other members of the group and were waiting for them when the priest came in a jeep. He abused us asking to go away. When we countered him, he made a phone call and soon a gang of young men reached the spot in another vehicle carrying iron rods, metal pipes and an axe.”

According to Mr. Talwar, the goons threatened to kill them and “rape the women”. “They then pounced on us. We were outnumbered and badly beaten up trying to protect ourselves.”

Mr. Dhasmana, who has been a frequent visitor to the area to document its flora and fauna, said that they were fortunate to have survived “as the attackers fled on seeing the members of our group coming.” A formal complaint has been lodged. Left “shocked and sad” by the incident, group moderator K.B. Singh said that the members of the group, “Indian Birds”, had been visiting bird sanctuaries and habitats in and around Delhi every weekend, but had never expected such a thing to happen to them. “We are a group of over 30,000 bird watchers across the world interested in the birds of the Indian sub-continent. The group has over 6,000 members in Delhi alone. It is the best time to visit Mangar Bani as the resident birds are breeding and the migratory ones are still there. We had last visited this place in January 2013 and the priest had been abusive even then. But we did not expect him to go to this extent.”

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