Not all people earn their bread by honest means. Of the various illegal methods and duplicitous tactics, extortion is likely to compete for a place at the top echelon of the list. Extortionists are class-conscious. Starting from the petty ones who have no source of regular income to the lordly barons, all resort to arms-twisting tactics in order to ensure that their unearned income does not suffer.
It is no secret that extortion has been turned into an art. Extortionists are not shy of taking the art to a new level all the time. Who, other than the Bangalees, could think of introducing elephant to the art of extortion? Pachyderms and primates are quick learners. Usually they are trained to perform various complicated tricks and manoeuvres in order to entertain people usually in a circus. But for quite sometime, some people have been making good use -- read abuse -- of the enormous size of elephants for extortion of cash money.
Animals could not care less if their act is legal or illegal. What they have been trained to do, they do it religiously. People have to give in to the demand of the largest mammal on Earth. It is no easy thing to confront such a huge beast and not to hand over as much as it demands. On Friday, not one but two pachyderms were extorting money from cars with particular focus on those with foreigners inside. It was done at Kawran Bazar in a calculative manner. The two beasts were posted almost right on the middle of the Kazi Nazrul Avenue so that traffic movement came to a near standstill.
The elephants entered their trunks through car windows and demanded money. Foreigners inside were baffled. They had no idea what was demanded of them. So they shouted 'police, police' to get help. Noticing this, a patrolling RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) team came to their rescue. When ordered to move to the roadside, the two mahuts (rider, trainer and keeper) disobeyed and started making their way through the heavy traffic. Panic gripped people in vehicles or outside all around. They had to be chased until the animals could be halted at Hatirjheel near Modhubagh. On the way, though, near the Kawran Bazar market, the elephants damaged four private cars.
Thank God, no life was lost. But the way the mahuts instructed the animals to flee the scene could lead to more untoward incidents and even tragedies. This is perhaps for the first time that the offence has been taken into due cognizance and the offenders punished. The two mahuts in their early 20's were awarded two years imprisonment each. What is more important is that the two elephants have been sent to the zoo for breach of wildlife laws. Now this will send a message to others taking recourse to similar ploys for extortion of money.
Using elephants for extortion, however, is not common. The art of extortion has opened newer frontiers. It is common knowledge that even a humble footpath vendor has to regularly pay extortion money. And it is a huge amount at the end of the day. Involvement of those who are supposed to prevent the crime gives it the unwarranted currency.
It is certainly not all quiet on the extortion front, although there is a semblance of it after the massive drive against the feared gangs which divided the entire city among themselves for convenience of their operation. In the drive, many of the ringleaders were killed in 'crossfire', a few left the country never to return and still others -- the lucky ones -- were imprisoned. But reports have it, these supremos lead a lordly life either in a jail or in a hospital.
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