Rhino poacher in Assam mortgages son for arms, held

The lure of ₹50 lakh for a rhino horn was enough for Nurjamal to trade his minor son

August 06, 2018 11:02 pm | Updated August 07, 2018 12:53 am IST - GUWAHATI

Nurjamal Rahman knew a rhino horn was worth thrice its weight in gold. The prospect was enough for him to mortgage his 12-year-old son for a .303 rifle and 10 rounds of ammunition to kill the endangered animal.

Nurjamal was caught in Assam’s Orang National Park on Sunday along with Sadikul Islam and Niyamat Ali — all from No. 1 Borsimalu village on the eastern edge of the park straddling Darrang and Sonitpur districts on the bank of the Brahmaputra.

Orang, about 110 km northeast of Guwahati, has an estimated 68 rhinos as per the last animal census in April this year.

The arrest is part of a crackdown that has netted more than 330 poachers across four rhino habitats, including Kaziranga National Park since 2015. Nurjamal’s interrogation revealed the extent poachers are willing to go, forest officials said.

Nurjamal told interrogators that he had struck a ₹3 lakh deal with the arms dealer, who wanted “security in human form” – his son in this case – to ensure the arms and unspent ammunition were returned. The money was to have been paid after selling the horn for at least ₹50 lakh to an animal body parts trader linked to the arms dealer.

The plan to kill at least one rhino was hatched in far away Chennai, where Sadikul, who worked in the unorganised sector, met Iman Ali of Nagaon. “Ali had contacts with dealers in arms and rhino horn in (Nagaland’s) Dimapur,” Ramesh Gogoi, Orang’s Divisional Forest Officer, told The Hindu .

When Sadikul returned to his village, he made a plan with Nurjamal and Niyamat, hired a car and left for Dimapur along with Nurjamal’s son. They picked up Iman en route.

“They paid a token advance to the Dimapur arms dealer and mortgaged the minor for three months, by which time they hoped to kill a rhino,” Mr Gogoi said.

Dimapur, Nagaland’s commercial hub and virtually controlled by extremists, is said to be the epicentre of wildlife trade. Everything from deer musk, bear bile, tiger bones and teeth, pangolin scales and of course, rhino horns are reportedly smuggled out through adjoining Myanmar via Dimapur.

Mother gives son away

But while Nurjamal staked his son for a “strike of a lifetime”, a woman from his village turned in her son to help police foil his plans. In a complaint to the police on June 13, Mursa Sulekha Khatoon said her son Idris Ali, a forest tracker had left home on June 8 with a group of rhino poachers. Two days later, forest officers reported a failed attempt to kill a rhino.

Subhalakshmi Dutta, Sonitpur’s Deputy Superintendent of Police who led the operation against the trio, attributed the success to Ms. Khatoon’s FIR.

The police caught Idris after he returned home. He spilled the beans about Nurjamal and his associates, but police and forest officials had to wait till their next strike on Sunday to arrest them.

Prized horn

The last rhino census said Assam has more than 2,610 of the one-horned herbivore. Though made of keratin, the same type of protein found in human hair and fingernails, the horn is believed to be an aphrodisiac as well as a cure for cancer in China and southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam.

Between 2015 and February this year, poachers have killed 74 rhinos in Assam. But stronger vigil has led to the killing or capture of many poachers during this phase.

One of the biggest catches was Mohammad Yakub Ali, whom the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had charge-sheeted in 2014 for multiple cases of killing rhinos and smuggling horns. He was arrested in Guwahati on June 26, revealed a poaching-smuggling network across Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and beyond, all the way to Yunan in southern China.

“We have taken major steps for the protection of wild animals and their habitat despite the ease with which poachers and smugglers operate in Nagaland,” Assam Environment and Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya said.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.