‘I was raped and beaten... now only jus­tice can heal me’ Maha de­mand for tiger skin soared this yr UN­DER THREAT

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Prawesh Lama let­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com Badri Chat­ter­jee badri.chat­ter­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com

Peo­ple at­tend the mid­night mass on Christ­mas eve at Don Bosco Church in Matunga on Satur­day.

Com­ing to In­dia was a child­hood dream for her. But eight months af­ter her first visit, a 25-year-old woman from Penn­syl­va­nia in the United States is back in New Delhi – this time to fight for jus­tice. In an in­ter­view with HT, the woman, de­scribed in the me­dia in re­cent weeks as “the Amer­i­can tourist”, has al­leged that she was raped, drugged and phys­i­cally as­saulted in a five-star ho­tel in the Cap­i­tal on two con­sec­u­tive days this April. She also said she feared the po­lice weren’t do­ing enoughto­catch­her­al­lege­drapists.

“I came to In­dia on a tour. In the ho­tel… I was sex­u­ally as­saulted by three mem­bers of the tour group and two mem­bers of the ho­tel staff. I was drugged dur­ing that time. I was phys­i­cally as­saulted and sex­u­ally as­saulted,” she said. “I am still afraid… afraid of be­ing alone in In­dia.” The woman, who flew in on De­cem­ber 19 to join the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, had filed a com­plaint on email to Delhi Po­lice through a US-based NGO on Oc­to­ber 5.

She blamed two ho­tel em­ploy­ees, and a con­duc­tor, a driver and a guide from the tour agency for the­crime. Acaseof gan­grape­was reg­is­tered on De­cem­ber 3. Po­lice are ques­tion­ing three sus­pects, but no ar­rests have been made so far.

“They may be sin­cere but I don’t think the po­lice are do­ing enough… I am def­i­nitely wor­ried that I may not get jus­tice. I am not naive to the sit­u­a­tion. I have come this far… find­ing jus­tice is a sense of heal­ing for me.” Over the past week, her state­ment has been recorded in front of a mag­is­trate and she had un­der­gone a med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion. The woman said her trauma has been un­bear­able. “There is a lot of emo­tional trauma I suf­fer, and prob­a­bly I will for the rest of my life,” she said. “I (want to) try to do every­thing I can in this sit­u­a­tion and keep other women from be­ing vic­tims of th­ese peo­ple.”

Star tor­toises, para­keets and spot­ted black ter­rapin tur­tles topped the list of an­i­mals traded il­le­gally from Mum­bai to dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try this year, a re­port stated. The list of most­traded an­i­mal parts in­cluded pan­golin scales, ele­phant ivory and tiger skin.

In a first, the Wildlife Crime Con­trol Bu­reau (WCCB), west­ern re­gion, re­leased an an­nual re­port high­light­ing the top six il­le­gally traded wildlife species from Mum­bai and Maharashtr­a in 2016. The seizures were made by the WCCB along with the state for­est depart­ment and the po­lice. Th­ese an­i­mals are pro­tected un­der sched­ule I of the Wildlife Pro­tec­tion Act (WPA), 1972, ex­cept the star tor­toise, which is pro­tected un­der Sched­ule IV of the same act.

“Our bu­reau col­lated re­ports from dif­fer­ent dis­tricts in Maharashtr­a and put the list to­gether. The idea is to in­crease aware­ness about this kind of il­le­gal trade, which is preva­lent not only in In­dia, but abroad as well,” said M Maranko, re­gional di­rec­tor, west­ern re­gion, WCCB. “Since there was lack of data from pre­vi­ous years, a com­par­a­tive anal­y­sis could not be pro­vided. How­ever, the cog­ni­sance and en­force­ment to stop such ac­tiv­i­ties has in­creased now.”

Maranko said nine cases of star tor­toise trade from Mum­bai were re­ported this year. All ac­cused have been ar­rested and con­victed for three years un­der WPA. A ma­jor case: On Oc­to­ber 14, Mum­bai Air In­tel­li­gence Unit (AIU) of­fi­cers in­ter­cepted two men with United Arab Emi­rates (UAE) pass­ports car­ry­ing 199 en­dan­gered tor­toises and tur­tles in four checked-in bags.

With para­keets, there have been six cases of trade of Alexan­drian para­keets from Mum­bai this year and a few oth­ers cases of Sun para­keets and East­ern Rosella from dif­fer­ent parts of the state.

Four cases were ob­served for the spot­ted black ter­rapin tur­tles, which are in high de­mand across South-east Asian coun­tries as food and are also used as a feng­shui sym­bol.

Some of the other strik­ing cases this year in­cluded the seizure of one pan­golin scale (sold in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket for Rs3-8 lakh per scale) from Dapoli in April, tiger skins (worth Rs510 lakh) from Gon­dia dis­trict, Nagpur di­vi­sion in Oc­to­ber and Te­len­gana in Novem­ber, both skins had been trans­ported from Gad­chi­roli dis­trict in Maharashtr­a.

ARIJIT SEN/HT

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