From a Correspondent
Jorhat, July 6: The age-old techniques of catching elephants, adopted by the traditional hati fandis will soon cease to exist. With the number of such fandis already depleting with every passing year, the practice is slowing dying as the old practitioners have taken it with them to their graves and the younger generation have fewer people adept in the art.
At this juncture of recent tusker atrocities, the relevance of hati fandis become all the more prominent. The Forest Department however has no data regarding their existing number in the State. Prior to the year 1976, the Forest Department entrusted a few hati fandis to catch the elephant cubs for trading or to control the population of elephants in the State. At last, the Forest Department floated a tender again in the year 1995 after 19 years of catching the last elephant cub. At that time, nobody responded to the proposal positively as the age group within which the elephants were allowed to be caught was impossible, as disclosed by one fandi near Gibbon Reserve forest. But, most of the fandis of that time are now at their old age or many of them have passed away, carrying with them the art and skills of catching elephants. The few living fandis often reminisces the heroic stories of catching elephant in dense forests. Akonty Buragohain, a resident of Pukhuria gaon, Mariani, the owner of two elephants beams with pleasure, when asked to tell his story of catching elephant cubs in different forests of the State. Besides him, Nilamoni Phukan from Deoraja, Amguri, Radha Phukan from Charing, Bidya Dhar Sarmah, Dina Ram Phukan, Tapuram Gogoi from Simaluguri are some renowned fandis who had associated themselves with Mela Sikar, the process of catching elephants. Unfortunately, the economic condition of most of them are now miserable, inspite of mastering the dying skills of elephant catching. This art will be soon be wiped out if the Forest Department does not step in. The day is not far, when the Forest department will have to search for fandis from outside the State to control the population of elephants. On the eve of every Forest day, which is celebrated by the Department every year, the government should organize a programmes where each of these fandis are encouraged and felicitated for their good works. The Forest department should also extract the techniques, art and skills of catching elephants, the Mela Sikar from the fandis, available in the State so that this art does not die forever.