Sunday, July 24, 2011

'Bolong rajar ghora' — Horse of the Wild King

He was once a mute witness to brutal massacre, abduction and bloodshed. Now, 'Bolong Rajar Ghora' - meaning 'horse of the wild king' - is a hot favorite with children visiting the Shipahijala zoo cum sanctuary - located about 28 km from Agartala.

And the 'wild king' was no other Aranyapada Debbarma, a dreaded insurgent who once stalked the vast forestland of the West Tripura district with his band of blood thirsty marauders. The Tripura militants were never known for using horses or even vehicles for their movement or operations, perhaps with the lone exception of NLFT's self-styled 'area commander' of Takarjala-Teliamura in West Tripura, Aranyapada Debbarma who was known as 'Bolong' raja (Bolong in tribal Kokborok language loosely means wild or forest).

None actually knows how Aranyapada procured the horse or how he could develop the unusual knack for the animal, though many feel that he might have got the idea from horse riding 'Gabbar Singh' - his favourite character in the film Sholay. But all, including the police, agree that Aranyapada was so fond of his horse that he was, in fact, never seen without it.

The horse was a fast-foot and helped the militant flee many a time from the clutches of the security forces.

But animals are known for their unpredictable mood and on 13th May, 2003 as security forces cordoned him off during an extortion attempt his horse developed cold feet and did not run. Both the Bolong raja and his horse were rounded up at Takarjala and a day later, the police produced Aranyapada to court from where he was sent to jail. The horse had also to be produced and the court ordered the police to hand it over to the Forest department.

'The Forest department brought the animal to Shipahijala six months ago. At first the horse looked morose, perhaps for his separation from Bolong raja. Moreover, as the forset babus were not quite sure what to do with it, the horse was sitting idle in the zoo,' said Nabalak Mian, a man of about 60 years of age.

Mian, who used to sell tea in Sipahijala, one day came out with  an idea and requested the forest offcial to allow him to use it for children's ride in the zoo.

'They happily agreed to give me the horse on lease. Now, for the small kids who come here along with their parents, the horse, apart from spectacled monkeys or lions in the zoo, is their most favoured animal for amusement. It seems that the horse is also happy with children on his back. It now eats and looks spirited,' Mian observed. Mian said, he could earn Rs 150 to Rs 180 a day during picnic seasons when there are lots of children in Sipahijala.

For 'Bolong Rajar Ghora,' it, however, is a long journey from a bloody guerrilla trail to a serene santuary road full with the amused chirping of children.

COLLECTED FROM : "The Eyewitness: Tales from Tripura's Ethnic Conflict" a book on terrorism in Tripura by Manas Paul, well known journalist and Editor-in-chief of Tripura Time, an english daily in Tripura.