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‘Law is equal for all’ — complaint against Assam CM, Sadhguru for night safari inside Kaziranga

The Assam CM said no laws were broken during the visit that 'took place' after sunset. A wildlife warden, he said, can give permission to enter a protected area even at night.

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Guwahati: A controversy has erupted in Assam after Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Isha Foundation’s Jagadish Vasudev, popularly known as ‘Sadhguru’, and state Tourism Minister Jayanta Malla Baruah went on a jeep safari inside the Kaziranga National Park after sunset Saturday.

A police complaint was filed against the trio Sunday by two residents of the area, Soneswar Narah and Prabin Pegu, claiming that the visit had been in contravention of the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act.

In the complaint, Narah and Pegu said Sarma, Sadhguru and Baruah had violated the time limit for visitors set by the Wildlife Protection Act to protect animals.

“The law is equal for all, so we demand that Sarma and his party be brought under the purview of the said law,” stated the complaint, which was filed at the Bokakhat Police Station in Golaghat district.

Videos of the visit, which allegedly took place Saturday, show the Assam CM sitting next to Sadhguru, who is seen driving the jeep with its headlights on. Several security personnel were also seen around the vehicle.

Responding to the allegations, Sarma, however, said no law was violated. “According to wildlife law, the warden can give permission to enter a protected area even at night. No law stops people from entering at night. Yesterday (Sunday), we had the formal opening of the park for this season, and now that Sadhguru and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had arrived, and since they have lakhs of followers, this time we expect the tourist season will be very good for Kaziranga.”

What the rules say

The 1972 Wildlife Protection Act allows a “public servant on duty, “a person who has been permitted by the Chief Wild Life Warden or the authorised officer”, “a person who has any right over immovable property within the limits of the sanctuary”, “a person passing through the sanctuary along a public highway” and dependents of persons who fit into any of these categories to enter sanctuaries or national parks.

According to the Act, a chief wildlife warden can grant permits for the study of wildlife, photography, scientific research, tourism, and “transaction of lawful business with any person residing in the sanctuary”.

A forest official, who didn’t wish to be named, said that visitors can’t enter the national park after sunset. But, according to the principal conservator of forests, there is one exception to that rule.

“There was no violation, the chief wildlife warden has authority to allow or not to allow, we had allowed their entry,” M.K. Yadava, principal chief conservator of forest and chief wildlife warden for Assam, said.

Political controversy

The visit, however, drew flak from several quarters, including opposition party MLAs in the state.

In a tweet Sunday, AIUDF MLA Ashraful Hussain said, “It’s very unfortunate that a person whose so called mission is to conserve soil and wildlife violated all the norms and visited Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary in Gypsy after sunset, that too with cavalcade of security. Is Sadhguru and the CM above the law?”

Several district units of the state Congress have also filed complaints against the visit.

Also read: Uncle, please sit. Jaggi Vasudev needs to shut up on things he has no clue about


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