Jammu: Maya Devi cannot step out of her house without scanning the outdoors through the window, secured with grills, in Bahu Fort locality of Jammu.
She only moves out of her house if she doesn’t spot a Rhesus monkey. And when she does come out, it is not without having a thick, long stick in her hand to keep away the creatures.
She recalls the incident when a large Rhesus monkey wounded her face about three months ago. She was lucky to save her 1-year-old daughter with the help of people who came to their rescue.
About 5 kilometers from the city centre, Bahu Fort locality is one among the places in Jammu where monkeys have affected the residents’ normal life.
Everybody in the locality is scared of coming out of their homes even during the daytime.
“It has become a menace now. There are daily reports of monkey attacks in this area. They mostly target women and children,” Devi, 28, told Kashmir Reader.
Raju, who owns a dry fruit shop outside Bahu Temple, added: “We called the wildlife officials a number of times to take away these monkeys, but the department has failed to come up with any plan so far. In fact, the number has increased from hundreds to thousands now,”
Situated on a bank of the river Tawi, the area is a centre of attraction due to Bahu Fort and Bahu Temple.
The fort is one of the oldest in the state, while hundreds of Hindu pilgrims visit the temple located inside it, especially on Tuesdays and Sundays. A terraced garden, Bagh-e-Bahu, is also developed around the fort.
A pack of monkeys can be spotted on the routes leading to the temple, waiting for the people to throw eatables for them.
Some can even be seen enjoying slide rides at Bagh-e-Bahu meant for children.
For the people living nearby, conflict between monkeys and humans has been a cause of injuries and property loss. But there is other side to the story: the people offer food to the monkeys out of religious considerations.
Jagath Nath, one of the priests at the Bahu Temple, said it was people’s “divine duty” to feed the monkeys, as the creatures are associated with Lord Rama.
There is a statue of Hanuman at the entrance of Bagh-e-Bahu. And many people believe that the presence of monkeys at the site is due to the statue.
Wildlife officials blame people for the booming population of monkeys in the entire Jammu region.
According to them, building of a highway close to the area and growing human intervention in their natural habitat has pushed the monkeys to urban areas.
“Monkeys like to be fed fruits, bread, nuts, etc on roadsides, religious places, gardens, parks, and even in the localities. That is the reason for their population growth,” a wildlife official said, wishing anonymity. “Artificial feeding is, in fact, affecting their food-gathering habits.”