A man running an animal welfare NGO in Rajkot was arrested by police, on Tuesday, for allegedly posing as a forest officer and attempting to extort money from personnel who were ferrying two elephants belonging to a circus owner in Ahmedabad.
Victor Fernandez, police inspector of ‘A’ Division police station in Rajkot, told The Indian Express that they have arrested Bhavin Patel, a resident of Satellite Chowk on Morbi road. Fernandez said that according to the complainant, Patel had posed as a forest officer and with the help of 10 other persons, intercepted a truck ferrying two elephants at Bedi village chowkadi on the outskirts of the city on the intervening night of June 12 and 13.
“Patel identified himself as a forest officer and demanded that the persons ferrying the elephants pay him Rs 2 lakh, or else the animals would be seized,” Fernandes said, citing the complaint filed by Anwar John, owner of Great Golden Circus in Ahmedabad.
In his complaint, John said that two elephants from his circus had not been keeping well for the past 10-12 days. After receiving due clearances from the Gujarat forest department, he decided to ferry them to Radhakrushna Temple and Elephant Welfare Trust near Moti Khavdi village in Jamnagar district. Subsequently, he loaded the two elephants on a truck from Dharmesh Farm in Ahmedabad at 5 pm on June 12, to be ferried to Jamnagar.
Mahouts and caretakers Attaullah Khan, Guddu Mali, Raja Mali and Zaheer Mali had also accompanied the animals. “However, Bhavin Patel forced the truck to stop at Bedi Chowkadi and demanded Rs 2 lakh and threatened to kill them (the mahouts) if they didn’t pay.” John stated in his complaint.
When the caretakers refused to pay, Patel called up one Naresh Kandiyan, saying the latter was his superior officer. Kandiyan allegedly demanded Rs 5 lakh to let the truck ferrying the elephants continue its journey.
Police said that eventually, Ataullah Khan called up John who said that he had required permissions from the forest department for transit of the elephants. “Eventually, the forest department took possession of the two elephants and ferried them to the forest office in Vavdi village. From there, after the animals’ owner produced relevant documents, elephants were allowed to be moved to Jamnagar,” Fernandez further said.
Based on John’s complaint, police booked Patel and Kandiyan under IPC Sections 342 (Wrongful confinement), 384 (Extortion) and 506 (2) (Criminal intimidation), among other charges.
Police said that 11 persons, who identified themselves as jivdayapremis (those having compassion for all living creatures), had also accompanied Patel. Hence, Patel and 11 others have been booked separately for allegedly violating the notification prohibiting assembly of crowds from 9 pm to 5 am in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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