Undaunted by the prospect of a possible jail term for keeping a blackbuck in his custody, a Naga sadhu has moved court with a prayer that the antelope be released in a forest near Aurangabad in Maharashtra, from where he had saved it from a pack of dogs. He also said both of them would die as “they cannot survive without each other”.
The court of chief judicial magistrate in Khargone will take a call on the plea filed by 23-year-old Neel Giri, who became a Naga sadhu during the Simhastha Kumbh in Ujjain. His bond with the blackbuck was on display at the Simhastha Kumbh as devotees thronged his pandal while forest authorities kept away for fear of a backlash from the sant community.
However, on May 23, two days after the Kumbh ended, forest authorities stopped Neel Giri’s vehicle when he was on his way back to Grishneshwar temple near Aurangabad and arrested the driver.
“They told me I could escape legal action if I handed over the blackbuck. How could I? It did not desert me when lakhs visited Ujjain or when I took deeksha. It was never tied. I can’t be so insensitive as to release it anywhere and let it die because neither of us would be able to survive without each other. It trusted me and I can’t betray it,’’ he told The Indian Express from an ashram in Indore.
The forest department arrested the sadhu, took away the blackbuck and released it in Ralamandal sanctuary near Indore. Neel Giri then stopped eating in protest, with more sadhus throwing their weight behind him. Two days ago, in the presence of top officials of Indore, he sought to demonstrate his bond with the animal which responded to his call. He broke his week-long fast after he fed the antelope food and now visits the sanctuary daily to feed it. The court will decide his plea on June 13.
Advocate Subhash Puranik said Neel Giri would not give up his fight till the animal, named Santosh Giri, is released in the forest from where it was rescued nearly two years ago.