It was a celebration with a difference. Deepavali, normally, is seen to be incomplete without the din of crakers. But residents in villages abutting the Koonthakulam bird sanctuary in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district opted to celebrate the festival of lights in silence as they did not want to disturb the birds that throng the sanctuary from different parts of the world.

Impressed by the solidarity shown by villagers, including children, in caring for their avian neighbours, the Inspector-General of Police of the Special Task Force, C. Sylendra Babu, sent a special team to celebrate the festival with them. The villagers and the police celebrated the festival without bursting a single firecracker. The STF personnel distributed sweets and fruits as a goodwill gesture.

Bursting of the high-decibel crackers scares away wild animals. “We are trying to showcase Koonthakulam as a model and create awareness in villages abutting forest areas. Villagers should come forward to give up use of crackers during festivals and other occasions in the interest of wildlife,” says Dr. Babu.

To start with, STF personnel intend to talk to villagers in forests along the borders of Erode, Salem and Coimbatore districts. Conserving the forest and protecting the flora/fauna is one of the duties of the Force, he added. Additional Superintendent of Police, R. Thirunavukkarasu, led the STF men to celebrate Deepavali in Koonthakulam.