When Jayant left his house on the evening of January 21 for a visit to his aunt’s house barely 100 metres away in Horalahalli village in T. Narasipur taluk near here, his family members did not imagine even in their worst nightmares that the 11-year-old will never return home.
A student of standard 5 at the government school situated diagonally opposite to their modest house, Jayanth had sprinted across to his aunt’s house just after sunset. Though he left his aunt’s house within minutes, holding a biscuit in his hand, Jayant could not reach his house.
Even though the houses of both Jayanth and his aunt are situated on the highway that connects tourist destinations like Talakad, Somnathpura, Mudukathore and Shivanasamudram, the tell-tale signs of a leopard attack behind the 11-year-old’s disappearance hit the residents of Horalahalli as a wholly unexpected tragedy.
His mother, father and sister were inconsolable after the 11-year-old’s partially eaten body was found early morning on Sunday.
As a pall of gloom descended on their house, amid wails of mourning heard from within, grim looking residents gathered near the house, trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
Even though the attack on Saturday evening was the fourth one to be reported in T. Narasipura in less than three months, the residents of Horalahalli did not anticipate the danger that was lurking in their village.
“Even though we had heard about leopards targeting sheep, goats and other cattle, we never thought that they would prey on humans in our village,” said a youth pointing to the presence of blood and broken pieces of biscuits a few yards away from the house of Jayant’s aunt. The half-eaten body of Jayant was found about one km away in the thickets behind his aunt’s house.
The leopard may have been hiding behind the bushes or houses along the highway and pounced upon an unsuspecting Jayant soon after he came out of his aunt’s house, said another villager.
The residents of the houses near the house of Jayant’s aunt said they did not hear any cries of the boy. The people of the village launched a hunt for Jayant when he did not return home on Saturday evening.
“There are no CCTV cameras in the village. We have no banks or any such establishments here that would install CCTV cameras so that the presence or movement of leopards in the village can be recorded,” said a villager. Most of the inhabitants of the village including Jayant’s father is an agriculturist.
Meanwhile, former Minister H.C. Mahadevappa, also a former MLA representing T. Narsipura, who visited Jayant’s house on Sunday, said he had spoken to the Deputy Commissioner K.V. Rajendra to immediately constitute a Task Force and come up with a special strategy to tackle the menace arising out of leopard attacks.
He pointed out that leopards were hiding in the sugarcane fields that have remained unharvested for more than 15 to 20 months, besides the thickets and bushes around schools and colleges.
While pointing out that the population of leopards had increased, Mr. Mahadevappa expressed concern over the leopards, which were targeting dogs, beginning to attack humans.