Curbs sought on Beladakuppe jathra in Bandipur
Wildlife activists have urged the Forest Department authorities to regulate and place curbs on the Beladakuppe temple jathra, scheduled to take place within the next few weeks.
The temple is located in the Hediyala range of Bandipur Tiger Reserve and the annual festival which falls close to Deepavali every year, draws tens of thousands of local devotees to the shrine much to the detriment of wildlife habitat.
Though the department has introduced certain norms including ban on entry of private vehicles, there is growing resistance from the local community. There were curbs last year due to the pandemic but a section of the devotees kicked up a ruckus resulting in tension in the area. The jathra mahothsava is growing in strength every year and there are plans to celebrate it on a grand scale this year owing to the restrictions that were in place last year, according to an activist working in the region. He said that there are different committees representing various communities who celebrate the event on different days. As a result the festival tends to get extended and disturbs wildlife habitat and animals.
Activists say meals used to be cooked for a large gathering and the wastes left behind in the forest, would be consumed by wild animals forcing them to venture into human landscape in search of food. The lose of human fear would also render animals susceptible to be poached by hunters.
Conservationists have cautioned that such interactions were fraught with danger as wild animals would lose their fear of humans and venture outside forest boundaries aggravating human-wildlife conflict.
Villages surrounding the Hediyala range bear the brunt of human-animal conflict and hence it is imperative to put curbs on the gathering, aver the activists.
The popularity of the jathra and the rush was such that till recently even temporary commercial kiosks would come up as in any village fair within the forest limits apart from merry-go-round and giant wheels.
Efforts have also been made in the past to relocate the temple at the edge of the buffer zone so as to minimize human-wildlife interaction. But this was resisted by local politicians and the efforts were given up after a few rounds of discussion including the local pontiffs and religious heads, failed to yield any result.
Meanwhile, Forest Department officials said they will introduce curbs this year as well and will not allow private vehicles to enter the national park. The vehicles will have to be parked outside and the department’s vehicles will be deployed to ferry them to the temple and back as being done all these years. However, activists said these are ad hoc arrangements and the long-term solution is to convince the community to scale down the jathra besides relocating the temple.