Slingshots & Catapults Destroy Wild Life


Maneka Gandhi


(Bihar Times) The Khadi Gramudyog / Khadi Village Industries Commission ( KVIC) has the strangest set of principles I have ever come across. They claim to sell those items that are based on Mahatma Gandhi’s principles. But most of their items are based on naked greed and violence: everything the Mahatma stood against.

The Commission itself is run by bureaucrats with no knowledge of the Mahatma or any interest in his teachings. For them it is a temporary posting and usually a punishment one.  So no attempt has been made to make the shops centres of excellence or to hold local fairs that promote beautiful things that satisfy man’s needs – as opposed to his greed  ( one of the Mahatma’s favourite sayings ) or to teach groups those skills that will help them make things that do not destroy the earth . Leather and silk have become their mainstay. Both these are hugely violent and involve the killing of millions of animals. The excuse for leather is that the animal used died naturally. This is a total lie. The KVIC contracts out the leather shoes and bags and has no idea what the contractor does to supply the items. No animal that dies of old age can have its skin used as it is too thin by then. A contractor is not going to wait until one animal dies in a village. He has to deliver at a deadline with a uniform set of leather items. So he hires people to poison cows in the cities and buys their skins at Rs 300 per cow , the younger the better.

Silk is made by roasting butterfly larvae and it takes 50,000 dead butterflies to make one sari. The KVIC labels its silk , ahimsa or non violent silk. This is patently untrue and when challenged their reasoning is that it is “matka” silk , silk that has been left over after all the good silk has been used from the larva. This is like saying that the intestines of a cow are vegetarian because they are left over after the rest of the animal has been eaten/used .

KVIC also sells other harmful rubbish. For some time they sold framed dead butterflies which had been poached in the Northeast. Now they promote and sell slingshots. At a recent exhibition of the Khadi Gramudyog in Guwahati  one of the prominent items on display and sale were catapults . There were many objections to this as slingshots/catapults are weapons that are used for hurting people, animals and birds and destroying public property. But the local KVIC director refused to remove the items saying they were “ traditional”. The seller of the slingshots said that he had been selling this item through the KVIC for many years , all over India.

Poverty, open defecation, dowry, child marriage  and girl killing are all traditional. Why are we attempting to remove them ? The catapult is a weapon of death. It has been responsible for the destruction of wildlife all over the Northeast. Should the KVIC be selling this ? It has been seized in many places by wild life officials as it has been found to used by poachers.

The slingshot is made of wood and rubber. It is the village equivalent of the airgun – which has been banned for sale to children by court order.

The states that promote the use of the slingshot are mainly Manipur and Nagaland – and you will not find a single bird or any other creature in Nagaland. They have all been killed , eaten , sold.  All you will find is animals that have been smuggled from other states which lie trussed in village markets waiting to be killed – pigs , dogs, chickens, calves , deer. Hunting to Nagas is a favourite leisure activity. Almost every Naga family owns a gun and a rubber catapult.  The favourite weapon of Naga students against the police is not the petrol bomb but the catapult which uses nuts and bolts as its shots.

Manipur is on the fast track to killing all its species of animals and birds too. In Manipur the catapult is called the Shairong and every child has one. The shots or gullen are made of sun hardened mud mixed with crushed glass, metal balls, marbles or stones . Targets included dogs, birds, fruits and street bulbs .  Popular heroes are those who can fire the shairong fastest and most accurately. It is a standard and deadly weapon used in bandhs. Writer Khingba Luwangcha posted this on his website in January about his childhood use of shairongs“  I still remember how we were punished publicly during the long general public meeting. W were made to stand in chicken position holding our ears during which elders spoke about vanishing birds in the locality, broken street bulbs, unintended victims of gullens, casualties inflicted upon people, cats, dogs and cattle going blind, broken window panes, and militarization of our life-style and so on. “

The traditional slingshot used limp rubber from the inner tubes of discarded bicycles and car tyres. Now rubber for the new slingshots is being smuggled in from Burma through the border town of Moreh in Manipur.This rubber has far more strength and the shot travels faster and higher , killing far more species.

This illegal rubber is being promoted and taken all over the country by the Khadi Gramudyog calling it “traditional”.  At the State level Khadi Gramodyog exhibition cum sale' organized by the Khadi & Village Industries Commission in Guwahati  three stalls from Nagaland were selling the slingshots made from this smuggled Myanmar rubber . 

The matter was reported to the representatives and organizers of the fair . They refused to do anything about it.  They were shown pictures of catapults that have been confiscated by wildlife officials in protected national parks like Kaziranga and Deepor Bheel in Assam. Still , no go.

Somebody with strong ethics needs to head KVIC. All the inlaid wood pictures which use sandalwood and cow bone have to be removed – both are illegal items. The “ agar “ or frankincense sold as chips of wood comes from the bark of extremely endangered agar trees that now only exist on the border of Burma. The so called camel bone items are all cow bone.

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in


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