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Death of a king

A street play in Delhi urges people to stop poaching.

Published: Monday 28 February 1994

Durga unsaddled as poachers ha THE WORLD Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) gutsily staged a street play in January this year in enemy territory, Delhi's Sadar Bazar -- the core of animal skin trader Sansar Chand's territory. Chand, who masterminded the biggest poaching network in north and east India, was nabbed by Delhi police in December 1993. About 3,200 animal skins and 278 kg of tiger bones were recovered from him.

The play has various animals grieving the death of the king of the jungle, who left no heir. Enter goddess Durga, resplendent in orange and gold but grounded without the symbol of feline ferocity. There are no more tigers in the jungle to carry her around. This urban jungle offers only a smelly scooter, upon which goddess Durga perforce rides pillion.

Performers playing the roles of tigers, bears and elephants danced and sang. Turbaned singers and drummers sent out a musical message, calling for an end to the slaughter of animals.

The play, enacted by a Rajasthani troupe, was a crowdpuller. Although the special invitees were dutifully appreciative, the hoi polloi passed lewd comments at Durga, labelling every dance a disco. In the midst of all this drollery, one was left wondering whether the message of conservation had got across at all.

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