Preparations are going on in war footing at Bokakhat, Assam for the much anticipated rhino horn burning on September 22.
As many as 2,479 pieces of rhino horns stockpiled in Assam government treasuries will be destroyed by consigning them to flames in public, a first in India.
This was decided by Assam Cabinet last Thursday. Assam Health Minister Keshab Mahanta said that the cabinet in its meeting chaired by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has decided that out of the 2,623 rhino horns, 2,479 pieces preserved in government treasuries across the state will be destroyed at a public function soon.
Mahanta, who is also the spokesperson for the state government, said that 94 rhino horns will be preserved as heritage pieces for academic purposes while 50 rhino horns would be reserved for court cases.
Before that rhino horns of various treasuries were meticulously reconciled digitally and physically by a team of more than 50 persons involving persons drawing from Government, non government as well as academics to maintain complete transparency.
Thursday’s cabinet meeting decided to set up a natural history museum at the Kaziranga National Park where the 94 rhino horns, extracted from the endangered mammals that had died due to natural causes, would be kept and conserved as heritage pieces for academic purposes and public presentation.
Senior forest and wildlife officials said that following a Gauhati High Court order dated December 13, 2010, the Environment and Forest Department has sought permission from the state government to destroy the rhino horns, ivory and body parts of other protected animals stored in various treasuries in different districts.
Six special iron pyres were being laid out at the Bokakhat Stadium, where the burning committee maintaining complete dignity to the state animal’s legacy will burn the horns.
The ashes of the same will be mixed with concrete and made several slabs to be kept for demonstration at Kaziranga National Park.
Assam’s Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Mahendra Kumar Yadav, said the process to verify the rhino horns, ivory and body parts of various protected animals seized from poachers, smugglers or extracted from dead animals over the last four decades were done involving various stakeholders, including media persons and NGOs, to ensure transparency in the whole exercise.
The Assam government had constituted a panel, ‘Rhino Horn Verification Committee’, in 2016, following allegations that fake horns were being used to replace the real ones in the district treasuries.
In the last such statewide inspection of rhino horns conducted in 2016, a total of 2,020 horns were found in 12 treasuries of the state.