Operation ‘Clean Art’ to crackdown on illegal trade in mongoose hair

First pan India operation to crackdown on the smuggling of mongoose hair; raids carried out in U.P, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Kerala.

Published - December 02, 2019 04:33 am IST - Kolkata

A view of the small Indian mongoose. File

A view of the small Indian mongoose. File

On October 24, 2019, about 200 officials, including policemen, gathered at Sherkot in Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor district. It was a planned raid, not to apprehend criminals, but to check on organised factories that were making paint brushes with mongoose hair.

By the end of the day, ten manufacturing units in Sherkot were raided and approximately 26,000 brushes and over 100 kg of raw mongoose hair was seized. About 26 people were arrested in connection with illegal trade in mongoose hair.

Raids were carried out not only in Uttar Pradesh, but also at Jaipur in Rajasthan, Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, and in Kerala, on the same day.

“Operation Clean Art was the first pan India operation to crackdown on the smuggling of mongoose hair in the country. There are six species of mongoose found in India and we have mostly recovered [in the raids] grey mongoose [hair],” H. V. Girisha, Regional Deputy Director, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), New Delhi, told The Hindu .

‘Organised crime’

Mr. Girisha said that an adult mongoose yields over 30-40 gm of long hair, from which only 20-25 gm of “brush-making hair” is recovered. Operation Clean Art was conceived by WCCB with the singular aim of ensuring that the mongoose hair brush trade should be closed down across the country.

Describing the making of brushes with mongoose hair an “organised crime”, the official said most of these animals were poached by “hunting communities” across the country.

Jose Louies, Deputy Director and Chief-Wildlife Crime Control Division, Wildlife Trust of India, also involved in Operation Clean Art, said the entire operation across the country yielded 54,352 brushes and 113 kg of raw hair.

About 49 arrests were made and 27 cases were registered under the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

“Art is supposed to be something unique and evoke the best among people. Why should there be cruelty and criminality involved in the process of creation of art? Art should be clean and artists should take a pledge that they will not use any brushes made of mongoose hair,” Mr. Louise said.

The mongoose is listed in Schedule II Part 2 of the Wildlife Protection Act and any smuggling or possession of its body part is a non-bailable offence. Persons using brushes made of mongoose hair should be aware of it, he added.

For about 150 kg of mongoose hair, at least 6,000 animals would have been killed, Mr. Louise said.

Postal Department

There have been instances in which mongoose hair has been transported using courier companies.

Postal Department authorities are also trying to involve the Postal Department to spread awareness and identify illegal trade in wildlife.

There is also a campaign on social media where concerned organisations are urging artists to take a pledge to refrain from using brushes made of mongoose hair.

‘Alternatives needed’

Well-known sculptor and painter Bimal Kundu said the reason why painters prefer brushes made of mongoose hair is because they are superior and hold colour better.

“I completely endorse that painters should shun brushes made of mongoose hair because animals are being mercilessly killed in the process of making such tools. But, the alternatives available in market are not of good quality. More research should be done to make brushes that fit the requirements of an artist,” the Kolkata-based artist said.

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