After our successful raid of 29th January 2005, where we busted Rajmal Mogiya (who much later on admitted to his involvement in the killing of 5 tigers), we were on top of the world. The paper work after the raid took all night to complete and we went to sleep around 10:00 AM the next morning. On the 30th of January all of us slept and later in the night we celebrated. As a result, there were no raids on the 30th.
On the 31st January, the Deputy Field Director (Mr. G.S. Bhardwaj) decided to accompany us on a raid in the Khandar fort area that lies in the North-east end of the Ranthambore National Park. We left around 10:00 in the morning – not the best time to go for a raid – in a convoy of two Forest Department jeeps and one truck. There were about 40 people. We first went to small village about 10 kilometers short of Khandar – where a few families of “Bagariya” tribals live. The Bagariyas, like the Mogiyas, are a former hunter-gatherer tribe, who now kill animals mainly for bush meat. They are not as lethal as the Mogiyas but are no friends of wild animals. We searched about 10 odd huts that were there in the settlement but did not find anything substantial. We did find a small cooking pot with some wild boar meat but since we could not ascertain, who the pot belonged to, we could not take any action. A large crowd had gathered around and the word had spread that the Forest department officials were on the prowl looking for poachers.
Around noon we went to a small village called Bhaopura on the banks of river Banas towards the North of the Ranthambhore National Park. On the outskirts of the village, on top of a small hillock was a small hut that we were told belonged to a Mogiya. There was no way a jeep could have reached even close to the hut, so we had to walk the last half kilometers or so. By the time we reached the hut, all the men had disappeared and there were only two small kids and one old woman. We asked the women if she had heard of any hunting in the area and she swore that they were law abiding citizens and that there was no hunting at all in the area. We still searched the area around the hut and after about 15 minutes found a small plastic bag that contained two nails of Sloth Bear and some black coloured hair that we believed came off a bear (see pictures below). The woman was arrested and taken to the Forest Office in Khandar. By that time it was getting close to sunset and we headed back.
The next day we went to the Deputy Field Director’s office and he informed us that the Operation Co-operation was off because the officials of the “Flying Squad” (which is in-charge of all anti-poaching operations) were getting “demoralized.” That was the end of it – at least for us. For the next two weeks or so the Forest Department did carry out a series of raids, which did not result in any arrests. Mainly because the word was out that a lot of raids would happen in the next few days and most of the poachers had just disappeared.
Did the Operation-cooperation achieve anything worthwhile? It did though indirectly. The Operation did not arrest many people but it did scare the poachers who had no choice but to disappear. Many months later, we asked a poacher (Devi Singh – who was one of the king pins) when poaching actually stopped. He told us that most of the poachers left the area around Ranthambore after the “series of raids that were conducted in the end of January.” In that sense the Operation Co-oeration and the series of raids that followed were the main reason for the end of large scale poaching around Ranthambhore that started in the beginning of 2003.