Jorhat, Sept. 27: Angered by three attacks on rhinos by poachers in and around Kaziranga National Park in the last 24 hours, locals joined hands with All Assam Students' Union and other organisations today to block NH37 for about two hours. AASU members also locked offices of the Kohora and Bagori ranges of the park.
Chants of "Aah oi aah ulai aah, Kaziranga baxi ulai aah" (Come out one and all, Kaziranga inhabitants) rent the air with the crowd attempting to rouse the passion of people at Kaziranga to protect the denizens of the park.
People blocked the highway for the second day today and also burnt effigies of chief minister Tarun Gogoi and state forest minister Rakibul Hussain.
The Paresh Barua faction of the Ulfa condemned the government in a press release for totally failing to protect the one-horned rhino, which was "a symbol of Assam's pride; an endangered animal which was the wealth of the state", called for formation of a people's force and asked people to take the cue from the Africa's model of conservation and protection.
Senior AASU leader Nilofer Rahman, who led the protest against the government today in the Bokakhat sub-division of Golaghat district, said they were demanding the stepping down of forest minister Rakibul Hussain and eviction of Bangladeshi nationals from the fringe areas of the park, as the latter were allegedly in league with the poachers.
"As the forest department at Kaziranga has totally failed to provide protection to these animals, we have taken the step of locking out the Kohora range office and the Bagori range office, under which the two rhinos shot at today were moving," he said.
The effigy of the forest minister was also burnt in Darrang district.
Ulfa in its release stated that as the government had totally failed to protect the rhino, which was Assam's wealth, and was busy with its own vested interest of building a vote bank by protecting and resettling illegal migrants, it was for the people to protect the animals and form a force which would man the park in shifts. As money would be required for this, it appealed to patriotic citizens to come forward and donate liberally for the cause.
"Poachers from all northeastern states, Myanmar and Bangladesh are involved in poaching rhinos in Assam and this should be stopped forthwith by forming this Assamese force," the release said.
The outfit also condemned the tiger project bid by the government, which it said was a plan to uproot the indigenous people from the vicinity and expose the rhinos to poaching.
It reiterated the suggestion made by Abhijit Asom, president of the outfit, for scientific removal of all horns of rhinos to prevent poachers from attacking them. This was one of the means used by African sanctuaries to protect the animals.