Indian politicians, election issues, and monkey business!
Monkeys may be a major menace for the citizens of Agra but the candidates seeking votes are wary of taking them on as they feel their action could offend those who see the animals as holy.
State forest department officials and local NGOs estimate there are about 20,000 monkeys in the Agra region. The aggressive animals have been attacking residents, especially women and children. In the last six months there have been three deaths due to attacks by simian herds.
But when voters ask the candidates for the Agra Lok Sabha seat - where balloting is scheduled May 7 - what the would-be MP will do to curb the monkey menace, all of them turn hesitant. Residents say they fear a backlash from many Hindus who see the monkeys as holy and do not want any action to be taken against the animals.
Samajwadi Party candidate Ramji Lal Suman said he would sort out the problem after discussions with the forest department officials and NGOs working in the field. "After all they (monkeys) too have a right to life, but human beings need to be protected from assaults. We will definitely find ways to make life safe for the locals," Suman told IANS.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Rama Shankar Katheria refused to say whether he thought the monkey problem was serious enough to warrant a discussion. Many politicians, especially from the BJP, regularly feed the simians bananas and other fruits at a dozen known locations in the city, particularly the Yamuna Kinara road.
Congress candidate Prabhu Lal Katheria said the monkeys would be relocated, "but let us first come to power".
Bahujan Samaj Party candidate Kunwar Chand Vakeel has reportedly not discussed the issue with his campaign strategists yet. "We have not discussed the problem yet, but the official agencies should tackle the menace if it is so serious," said Netra Pal, an active supporter of Vakeel and a social activist working in Dalit areas.
P.S. Monkeys have been in the news in India for some time now. Especially in Delhi, where the monkeys have been accused of "invading" government buildings and even the police headquarters has been attacked by a monkey gang (Now we have the answer to the question: Who will police the police? The monkeys! :)) and a deputy mayor's death has been blamed on monkeys. The whole brouhaha over monkeys in the capital, of course, was beautifully captured in the recent movie, Delhi-6.