Nov 20, 2007


Here is an edited version of an Agence France Presse story from New Delhi....

Just weeks after the Indian capital's deputy mayor toppled to his death fending off a pack of monkeys, the animals have gone back on the attack, sparking fresh concerns about the simian menace. One woman was seriously hurt and two dozen other people were given first aid after monkeys rampaged through a neighbourhood in east Delhi over the weekend. "There were about three or four monkeys involved," deputy police commissioner Jaspal Singh told AFP. "Wildlife officials are trying to find them. As police we're not experts in dealing with monkeys. We can deal with mad bulls but monkeys are more difficult," he said. Not to mention women marrying cobras. And for what? To be closer to the divine, to die entwined with a myth?

Along with an estimated 35,000 sacred cows and buffaloes that roam free in the capital, marauding monkeys have been longstanding pests. They routinely scamper through government offices, courts and even police stations and hospitals as well as terrorise neighbourhoods. They pull down women's saris, and throw shit at guards at the cultural monuments. They pee on sleeping beggars and on the shoes of wealthy people trying to get a taxi.

The issue boiled over in late October when the city's deputy mayor, Sawinder Singh Bajwa, 52, fell to his death driving away monkeys from his home. He was on his balcony reading a newspaper when four monkeys appeared. He was just reading about events in Pakistan and was cursing Islam and those crazy radicals in the Northwest provinces. Kill every one of them, he was thinking, every last one. And just then he noticed the monkeys. One sat on the railing, chattering away. Another, very cat like, langorously moved on to the railing and dropped its head like an undercover policeman speaking into a microsphone inside his jacket.

"Get out," said Bajwa, but the two monkeys didn't move and then a third appeared. For a moment all three sat, backs parade-straight watching the official. They reminded the deputy mayor of judges. "Get out you devils," yelled Bajwa who reached for a small broken branch next to his chair. But the monkeys didn't move. He moved toward them menacingly and the one seemed to titter. "You insulting little scum," said Bajwa who didn't notice that one of the one of the monkeys had hopped down and moved behind him. He began waving the stick and the two monkey both began tittering. Then suddenly Bajwa heard a strange sound behind him, a squeel. He turned and was so shocked to see the looming monkey behind him that he tumbled over the edge.

And still the violence continues. In the latest incident in Delhi's Shastri Park area, residents reported the monkeys appeared late Saturday and rampaged for hours.

"I was talking to someone at my door at around 11 pm when a monkey appeared," said Naseema, who goes by one name, told the Times of India. "As I moved inside, the monkey followed and sank its teeth in my baby's leg."

Estimates of the size of Delhi's monkey population range from 10,000 to over 20,000. In 2001 residential districts petitioned courts to make Delhi "monkey-free." And last May, federal lawmakers demanded protection from the simians. But there has been little visible progress. "We're trying to catch them but the difficulties are a shortage of monkey catchers. We're not able to take full action at full speed," A.K. Singh, a senior municipal official, said.

Delhi has set a 10-million-rupee (253,000 dollar) budget to capture the monkeys which are handed over to a shelter in a disused mine area on the city's outskirts. Neighbouring states have refused to release the monkeys into their forests. Efforts to drive out the animals is complicated by the fact Hindus view them as a living link to Hanuman, the monkey god who symbolises strength. Delhi's mayor has admitted authorities cannot cope with the violent animals. "We've neither the expertise nor the infrastructure," said Mayor Aarti Mehra. If they are caught, "we're under pressure to release them due to pressure from animal activists and from people due to religious reasons." Kartick Satyanarayanan, head of India's Wildlife SOS, said the invasion of the animals' natural habitats by mushrooming populations was at the root of the problem. "Humans are taking all their space."

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