KEONJHAR: Tribals armed with traditional weapons are seen marching towards forests in pockets of Keonjhar district. A war has not broken out rather it's time for Akhand Shikar literally meaning mass hunting. The hunting is part of ongoing Akhani Parva, a unique festival.
"We observe the festival every year. According to tradition, we go for mass hunting during the festival we have been observing since time immemorial. After worshipping the village deity, we go to the forests and come back before evening. Whatever wild animals we hunt, villagers share them," said Rajan Munda, a tribal hunter of Jagadala under Jhumpura block.
When the hunters are back with preys, the villagers welcome the 'bravehearts' in a traditional way. Later a community feast is organized where all inhabitants participate. If the hunters return empty- handed, then it is considered a bad omen. They apprehend it would annoy forefathers, which would lead to a mishap in village.
Mass deforestation due to rampant mining and wanton timber smuggling has shrunk the habitation of wild animals. Their number has declined due to mass hunting and lack of fodders. In this situation lack awareness on wildlife protection laws has threatened the very survival of animals, said a campaigner.
"We are keeping a strict vigil on the traditional practice. The forest department is discouraging them to hunt through awareness programmes and taking strict actions against violators," said DFO (Keonjhar) A K Lenka. Like animal sacrifice, the government should ban Akhand Sikar, said senior lawyer Ashok Das.