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Last Updated: Friday, 10 December 2004, 16:11 GMT
Police thwart India snake protest
By Sandeep Sahu
BBC correspondent, Bhubaneshwar

Snake charmer protesters in Orissa
Protesters are angry at the seizure of their snakes
Police in the eastern Indian state of Orissa have prevented an attempt by protesting snake charmers to release snakes into the state assembly.

The charmers marched to the building in state capital, Bhubaneshwar, in protest at a government crackdown on their profession.

In recent months, wildlife officials have seized hundreds of snakes, releasing them into forests.

The charmers want to keep their jobs until alternative work is found.

Torture claim

Hundreds of snake charmers, displaying their snakes, took part in the march to the state assembly.

Police halted them a few hundred metres from the building.

Snake charmer protester in Orissa
The charmers demand an end to the crackdown

A delegation of snake charmers then met Chief Minister Navin Patnaik and presented a memorandum containing a list of demands.

They included an immediate halt to the crackdown against them and permission to carry out their traditional occupation till they were provided an alternative source of livelihood.

The protesters were mostly from the snake charmers' village of Padmakesharpur on the outskirts of Bhubaneshwar.

Wildlife officials and activists allege that snake charmers torture the snakes, a charge the charmers deny.

A non-governmental organisation, the Peoples' Rights Forum, supporting the snake charmers, says there cannot be a blanket ban on catching snakes.

It says certain categories of snakes should be exempted.

A member of the NGO said snake charmers from several other states had pledged their solidarity in the struggle of Orissa's 10,000 snake charmers.


SEE ALSO:
Orissa assembly faces snake fear
24 Nov 04 |  South Asia
Cult dance banned by Indian court
11 Mar 04 |  South Asia
India's endangered snake charmers
09 Feb 04 |  South Asia
Snake charmers put on a show
18 Aug 01 |  South Asia


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