18 Feb 2024

West Bengal: Legal Battle Emerges Over Naming of Big Cats as 'Akbar' and 'Sita' at North Bengal Wild Animal Park

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has taken the matter of naming a lion and lioness as 'Akbar' and 'Sita,' at the North Bengal Wild Animal Park in Siliguri in West Bengal to court. The matter will be heard bt to the circuit bench of the Calcutta High Court in Jalpaiguri district.

VHP alleges that the naming of the lioness 'Sita' and the lion 'Akbar' at the Animal Park is inappropriate, expressing anger over the decision. However, park officials have refuted these claims.

In its petition, VHP argues that such names are "absurd" and "irrational," equating them to "blasphemy."

The case is scheduled for a hearing on 20 February in the court of Justice Saugat Bhattacharya.

Under the Animal Exchange Program, eight animals, including the lioness 'Sita' and the lion 'Akbar,' were transferred from Siparjala Zoo in Tripura to the Animal Park in Siliguri on 12 February.

VHP contends that the naming of the lion and lioness after the animal exchange has hurt religious sentiments associated with Sanatan Dharma. VHP claims they have protested multiple times to forest department officials.

Dulal Chandra Rai, the Jalpaiguri chief of the VHP, expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of response from authorities, saying, "We have moved the court as we have not been heard despite our efforts."

The VHP is urging the court to change the names of the lions and demands action against those responsible for the naming.

VHP's claims are politically motivated: Minister

Birbaha Hansda, Trinamool Congress MLA and West Bengal Forest Minister, dismissed VHP's claims as politically motivated clarifying that the animals were not named by the state officials. He added that the Chief Minister would formally name the animals, emphasizing that the names might have originated from their previous home in Tripura Zoo.

According to officials, 'Akbar' is a seven-year-eight-month-old lion, and 'Sita' is a five-year-six-month-old lioness, currently housed in separate enclosures. They are expected to be visible to the public after a minimum of two months.

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