FALOHARINI HUNT FEST UPDATE
16-19 May 2023
What began in 2016 with just a few individuals has grown into a massive conservation movement to protect southern West Bengal’s rich biodiversity from unsustainable ritualistic hunting.
In 2018, HEAL had moved a PIL in the Calcutta High Court to put a stop to the brutal mass slaughter of thousands of animals during the Faloharini Hunting Festival. The plea was allowed, placing an embargo on killing of wildlife during this hunt fest and it was further supplemented by the High Court’s February 2023 order.
Since 2018, significant progress has been made to curb this hunt. For a second consecutive year, the Faloharini Hunting Festival (16 to 19 May 2023), was effectively contained in East Medinipur and Howrah districts through coordinated efforts amongst multiple government departments, NGOs and conservation minded individuals
The Howrah and East Medinipur Forest Division transformed this hunting festival into a virtually ‘bloodless’ event through diligent implementation of all possible preventive measures. Meetings were organised to coordinate efforts between the District Administration, Police, Railways, Excise Department, Block-level Administration, Gram Panchayats and local non-profit organisations in mitigating the hunt fest.
The Kharagpur Railway Division intensively monitored all major railway stations, effectively restricting the entry of armed hunters from other districts. Forest officials and volunteers from various local NGOs, including HEAL, maintained round-the-clock surveillance at all railway stations, prominent ferry ghats and strategic checkpoints along major roads, to further detect and intercept hunters.
Around 250 armed hunters, a miniscule percentage of what used to be encountered 8 years ago, were intercepted at railway stations and naka checkpoints. Their weapons and hired vehicles were duly seized by the Forest Department.
Raids by Excise Officials in East Medinipur; cooperation from Brick Field Owners Association in prohibiting migrant labourers from hunting and awareness drives at railway stations and tribal dominated settlements in Howrah and East Medinipur further reduced the scale of the hunt fest.
The mitigation of Faloharini Hunting Festival serves as a remarkable example of how seemingly daunting conservation threats can be resolved through concerted action of multiple stakeholders.