By Pinak Priya Bhattacharya, TNN | Dec 23, 2012, 06.24 AM IST
JALPAIGURI: An adult female leopard that had strayed out of the forest was lynched by villagers barely 10 km from Jalpaiguri town on Saturday afternoon. The villagers killed the animal with bamboo staffs and other weapons even as helpless foresters stood watching, vastly outnumbered by the incensed mob.
The incident took place at Premganj village under Paharpur panchayat. The leopard was spotted first around 9.30am by brothers Amal and Bimal Mondol who had crossed the Teesta, which flows by the village, to go to their agricultural field. The animal was lying on the bank.
Before they could realize that it was a leopard, the big cat pounced on them and left them injured.
The leopard had probably taken shelter in a nearby tea garden, said foresters. The bushes in the garden provide natural cover for these animals which often treat the drains as their hiding place, especially when the females are about to give birth. The heap of leaves in the drains act as natural cushion for the big cats and this attracts the animals to the gardens.
Amal and Bimal, though injured, managed to row get back to their boat and row back to their village and were rushed to Jalpaiguri Sadar Hospital where they are undergoing treatment. But the incident triggered panic among the villagers.
As soon as foresters were informed, they arrived with the wildlife squad and tranquillisers. They crossed the river, in a boat and spotted the leopard on the other side, and even darted it once. But the leopard attacked the foresters, too, leaving two of them injured.
Taking no further risk, the boatman turned the boat around. But the leopard leapt at the boat and clung on to a rope hanging from the boat and dashed into the village That way, it reached the other side of the river and as soon as the boat got close to the shore, it dashed into the village. By then, the villagers had armed themselves with lathis and bamboo staffs. They chased the frightened animal, surrounded it and beat it to death, . The animal was already drowsy due to the effects of the sedative and could not escape the villagers. The villagers lynched it right in front of foresters.
“We could do nothing as the villagers were baying for the animal’s blood. We were far outnumbered by them,” said a senior forest official.