ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Death of Kalandar Bears

“One More Sloth Bear Dies”. So ran the headline of a news item in the Bangalore edition of Deccan Herald (1 February 2013, p 2). Ratnakar, as the bear was called, had been “rescued in June 2009 from Hampikatte, Bellary from Kalandars” and died because the Bear Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (BRRC) could not “diagnose and treat” the animal for TB infection.

How were the bears “rescued” from their Kalandar captors and tormentors? It began by luring the Kalandars into getting their bears micro-chipped and the rest fell into place when the Kalandar men with their bears set out on their savaari, a Kalandar expression signifying a journey when they roamed to make a living. The Kalandar men, innocent of the machinations of the wildlife activists, were picked up and in some cases jailed. Provisions of the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 were invoked in this rescuing. This private and public partnership intimidated the Kalandars into surrendering their bears to the BRRC, a collaborative project between wildlife organisations – both local and foreign – and the state which was inaugurated in 2002. The Kalandars, with little knowledge of the larger world and bereft of any resources, now experienced the terrifying powers of the law and jails. Raju, the last Kalandar bear, was surrendered to the BRRC in 2009 and with this the profession of “bear-dancing” of the Kalandar people ended officially.

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