Jaipur, March 31 (IANS) Around 100 villagers protesting relocation of their villages in the periphery of Sariska Tiger Sanctuary in Rajasthan's Alwar district courted arrest Saturday, police said.
The villagers had been protesting since Wednesday and not allowing the forest department authorities to open the gates of the Sariska Tiger Reserve which has badly affected the tiger tourism.
The tourists who had arrived in Alwar to visit the sanctuary have been left stranded, while hundreds of others are reported to have cancelled hotel and travel bookings.
The farmers are staging a sit-in at the reserve against the relocation of some villagers falling under the reserve area in Alwar, some 200 km from Jaipur.
"About 100 farmers have courted arrests and they have been booked for breach of peace," a police officer told IANS.
Sariska has about 28 villages which fall in the critical tiger habitat, which need to be relocated to improve the habitat. People living in these villages mostly belong to pastoral tribes.
He added that the forest department is undertaking the relocation process as there are fears of poaching of tigers residing in the protected sanctuary.
There are about five tigers in the sanctuary at present with the forest department planning to shift another one from Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur district.
During 2004-05, the forest department and the state government faced all-round criticism over the disappearance of tigers from Sariska.
A report produced in March 2005 by the Wildlife Institute of India confirmed that there were no tigers left in the Sariska reserve at all. Poaching was found to be a reason for the dwindling tiger population.
The Sariska Tiger Reserve, originally a hunting preserve of the erstwhile princely state of Alwar, was declared a wildlife reserve in 1955 and attained the status of a National Park in 1979.
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