Environment and animal rights activists on Sunday alleged that Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, state Tourism Minister Jayanata Malla Baruah, and spiritual guru Jaggi Vasudev aka Sadhguru violated the Wildlife (Protection) Act by driving a safari vehicle inside the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve beyond the scheduled time.
Activists Soneswar Narah and Prabin Pegu lodged a police complaint at the Bokakhat police station in Golaghat district against the Chief Minister, spiritual guru, and the Tourism Minister, demanding action against them under the act.
"Villagers around the Kaziranga have sacrificed a lot to protect the world-famous park. Wild tigers, elephants and other animals killed many domestic animals of the people living alongside the park," Narah told the media.
Forest and other law enforcing agencies took action against many people for "violating" the Wildlife Protection Act and and many people were sentenced to imprisonment, he said.
The activist said that if the law is equal for everyone, then action must be taken against the Chief Minister, Sadhguru, and Tourism Minister for conducting the vehicle safari inside the national park much beyond the scheduled time.
A fleet of vehicles carrying Sarma, Sadhguru, and the minister covered around two km inside Kaziranga after the inauguration of a rhino memorial about two hours much behind the scheduled time on Saturday.
Sadhguru was driving one of the safari vehicles with the Chief Minister in the passenger seat while the Minister sat in the back along with officials and guards.
Environment and wild animal expert Rohit Choudhury said that vehicle safari after sunset in Kaziranga is a violation of Section 27 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, which restricts the entry in a wildlife sanctuary of anyone other than a public servant on duty.
Another environment and animal rights activist Apurba Ballave Goswami said that it is most unfortunate that an important person like Sadhguru, "whom we expect to practice what we preach, has no sensitivity towards animals".
Goswami said that it is known that wild animals in their protected homes and forest feel disturbed by lights, sounds and noises of vehicles at night.
The Chief Minister, Sadhguru and Tourism Minister formally re-opened Kaziranga for tourists for the forthcoming season on Saturday.
Elephant safari and jeep safari in the park, India's seventh Unesco world heritage site, remains closed during the monsoon and reopens in October but this year, the park opend early to attract the tourists who could not visit there during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Chief Minister and Sadhguru also unveiled three statues of rhinoceros at the Mihimukh area of the park. The statues were crafted using the ashes from burning seized rhino horns on September 22 last year.
Assam had created history when a stockpile of 2,479 rhino horns was burnt at a public function to send a strong message to poachers.
Kaziranga, which is spread across five districts of Assam -- Golaghat, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Biswanath and Karbi Anglong, is not just a home of at least 2,613 one-horned rhinos, but also to Royal Bengal tigers, Asian elephants, wild buffalos and many more animal species while it is also habitat to thousands of birds of over 125 species.
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