Bhupeswar Ningda of Imthong Ketetong village mourning Kalia. Kalia, the hoolock gibbon he had raised so lovingly was killed during Magh Bihu, a festival of feast and joy. When everybody was busy in celebration of Bhogali Bihu elsewhere, the brutal and mindless killing of a hoolock gibbon in a distant village Ketetong in upper Assam’s Margherita had not only deeply pained animal lovers but also sparked serious reactions among various section of the people. But Ningda family could enjoy the Magh Bihu they are preparing to all rituals held on the 10th and 11th days as a part of funeral rituals after a person passes away.
“Kalia was a family member. I fed her regularly with bananas and other fruits, bread or a bowl of rice, as she frequented my house. I had adopted her though she was the pet of the whole area,” he told.
Imthong Ketetong is 8km from Margherita in Tinsukia district, 210km from here and about 550km from Guwahati. It is populated by the Singphos and with a smattering of Nepalis, Tai Phakes and some other communities.
It is alleged that Moni and his father Debajeet Chetia had killed the gibbon, an endangered species. The duo was angered after Kalia ‘attacked’ their children. However, Bhupeswar Ninda said that Kalia had bitten one of the children of the Mahanta’s as they had attacked Kalia with catapult. “The child was teasing the holou bandor (hoolock gibbon) with a catapult and was attacked in return. The father rushed to his son’s aid and hit the gibbon with a shovel,” one villager alleged. Ningda said if there been trees she would have escaped but she had alighted to play with a few puppies and was trapped. “It was the day people all over the state were celebrating Magh Bihu that I lost her,” he lamented. Ningda said he missed Kalia terribly.
Her parents were reportedly killed by poachers earlier. Later, her male partner too was killed. Kalia became more closer to the Ninda family. She use to roam around the trees in and around the area and often came back when guests came to the house of Ninda. Ninda said he was away from his home when the incident took place. “She came here in the eighties with a mate and they soon had a child. The male died and the baby gibbon was killed by a dog. In the nineties, I started taking care of her and we were great friends,” he added.
Ningda said she “never ate more than one papaya from his tree even if there were four or more hanging from it. It was because of Kalia that we all had fruits and other vegetables growing in our gardens. Other monkeys did not dare to come, as in other nearby villages, because of her”.
Ningda said visitors from the US, the UK, France, Singapore, Thailand, China, Germany and other places would come to his house to be photographed with Kalia or film her. Fans of Kalia have put up her photographs on Facebook and other social media.
Stephan Moray, a professor in linguistics from the US, who visited Ketetong village in 2007, said he was extremely sad to hear the news.
“I will never forget the night I slept at Ningda’s house, waking up in the morning and hearing Kalia. I did not know what it was and did not believe that it could be a hoolock gibbon till I saw her,” he said media
“Many people had met Kalia in the past, she was even filmed by internationally reputed channels National Geographic and Animal Planet, she was never aggressive “, Ninda said.
A case has been registered at Margherita police station against the crime.
by C K Duarah