The Royal Bengal Tiger Which Got A Shikaree Hanged

Major Khan

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After an extremely hectic week , l have finally found time this Friday night to write another 1 of my articles about shikar in " old " India for our international hunting community in African Hunting Forums .
For those of you gentlemen who are avid readers of the articles of my good friend , former fellow professional shikaree and fellow forum member , @Kawshik Rahman ... you will recall a story which Kawshik once related about a professional shikaree named Rongon Daas who got hung to death by the police , because his client had gotten killed by a royal Bengal tiger .
I was part of the team of professional shikarees assigned to track down and finish off that royal Bengal tiger . Tonight , this is the story which l shall be writing about . Let us turn the clock back to 1965 , dear readers . A time when the great forests of India were the 2nd homes of shikarees , sports men and adventurers . A time when the world used to be a bigger place . A free place .
Below is a photograph of all of us professional shikarees of Allwyn Cooper Limited during 1 of our annual picnics . The vast majority of these great men are now sadly no more . Only 5 of the gentlemen in this photograph are alive today ( including myself ) . Our head shikaree , the great Rao Naidu of Hyderabad is in the centre . My best friend and former professional shikaree partner , the late Tobin Stakkatz is in the top row , 2nd 1 from the right . I am on Tobin's left side .
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This story shall be broken down into 3 portions ; each to be covered in 1 post. I do hope that this story shall prove to be not too boring , dear readers . However , if it is ... you will forgive me .
 

Major Khan

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It was 1965 and l had just returned back to Nagpur from a successful Neelgai culling programme in Uttar Pradesh , along with my shikar partner , Tobin Stakkatz and the 4 choota shikarees ( part time shikarees ) who were under our employment. We were assigned to cull a large herd of crop damaging Neelgai and cull them , we did. 42 Neelgais had fallen to our guns and each of us shikarees were bringing back about 6 kilograms of prime cut Neelgai venison to our families and loved 1s ( l consider the tenderloin of Neelgai to be just about the most delicious game meat in existence , especially when seasoned with coarse rock salt , lime juice and paprika , before being grilled over an open fire . ) . The rest of the venison was donated to the local villagers who certainly appreciated the welcome addition of some fresh protein to their diet .

Upon returning to Nagpur , we all received the horrifying news from our employer , Mr. V . C . Shukla ( the owner of Allwyn Cooper Limited ) that a client of Sundar Raj Shikar Limited in Darjeeling had been killed , during a shikar which went horribly wrong . Knowing that our good friends , Kawshik Rahman and Karim Chowdhury were professional shikarees working for Sundar Raj Shikar Limited , we immediately were overwhelmed with terror and began to inquire about what had actually happened. There were numerous inconsistent and wildly exaggerated rumors circulating around Nagpur about what had happened.
The undeniable facts were these :
Rongon Daas , the head shikaree of Sundar Raj Shikar Limited was guiding an American client on a shikar for a royal Bengal tiger . This client was armed with a pre 64 Winchester Model 70 bolt rifle , chambered in .220 Swift calibre ( which used 48 grain soft point bullets . ) and ( for whatever reason ) had decided that it would be a good idea to use this rifle in an attempt to secure a large male royal Bengal tiger. The results were predictably disastrous for the client and the enraged royal Bengal tiger JUMPED on top of the client and mauled him to death .
Rongon Daas was unable to protect his client and now he had been imprisoned by the police , due to charges brought by the Nilgiri Wild Life Association against Rongon for the criminal offence of " omission " . Shikar was a MASSIVE source of revenue for India's economy back in those days and roughly 65 % of all of our clients were American . Ergo , a significantly large portion of India's shikar market consisted of American clients . The Nilgiri Wild Life Association wanted to make a very public statement that they did NOT take the deaths of their foreign clients lightly . They were terrified that this American client's death would be bad for business and that international shikar clients would be discouraged from coming to India for shikar henceforth .
Therefore , they were determined to persecute Rongon with the highest punishment possible : The Death Penalty .

Upon hearing this story , Tobin immediately was skeptical . " This is horse shit . “ He said . “ There’s gotta be more to the story . What kind of wack job looks at a varmint round like the .220 Swift and thinks that it’s gonna be a good idea to use 1 on a God damned tiger ?! “ . I shrugged and replied , “ Perhaps , he wanted to accomplish a world record of some sort ? “ . “ Yeah . “ Replied Tobin . “ World’s stupidest hunter . “ .
However , we had an equally grave problem to worry about at the moment . The royal Bengal tiger which had been injured by Rongon Daas’s client had turned into a man eater and had already killed 3 people in Siliguri . 3 people in 5 days.
Mr. Shukla ( who was already beginning to get into politics at that time . ) realized what good publicity he could gather , if is was HIS men who managed to slay the brute . He told Tobin and l , “ You both are heading to West Bengal and neither of you are returning to Nagpur , until you can bring me that royal Bengal tiger’s head . “
Tobin and l looked at each other , and sighed ... Here we go again .

Below , l have attached a scan of a page of our professional shikaree’s regulation book for Uttar Pradesh . I sincerely apologize for the wrinkles on the paper . This document is 65 years old . As can be seen , in Uttar Pradesh the minimum calibre permissible for shikar of royal Bengal tigers was a .375 Holland & Holland magnum calibre rifle , using at least a 300 grain bullet. However , this law only existed in 13 Indian states. In the other 17 states , there were no such regulations on the minimum legally permissible calibre to use on royal Bengal tigers . This lack of legal regulation allowed fool hardy individuals to use inadequate armaments in an attempt to hunt royal Bengal tigers ... often leading to grievous consequences for many a member in the shikar party .
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Personally , while l do agree with the concept of SOME legal regulation mandating what calibres to use for hunting royal Bengal tigers ... I would personally set the minimum at .338 Winchester magnum instead of .375 Holland & Holland magnum . Time and again , l have seen a good .338 Winchester magnum calibre 250 grain soft point bullet crumple a 500 pound charging royal Bengal tiger with impunity .
In the next portion , l shall detail our experiences when we landed in West Bengal. It turned out that the truth was stranger than fiction.
PS : If any of you gentlemen would like to see our entire professional shikaree's regulation book some time , then please do not hesitate to message me . I cannot post the entire book in this article , as it is too large and the other pages are irrelevant to today's article .
 
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Major Khan

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The next day , Tobin and l took the noon train to Darjeeling . Tobin took his Fabrique Nationale .423 calibre Mauser bolt rifle and 50 RWS 347 grain solid metal covered cartridges . I took my trusty 12 Bore Belgian double barreled side by side shot gun and 40 rounds of 2.5 inch Eley Grand Prix Lethal Ball cartridges , along with 1 dozen rounds of 2.75 inch Eley Alphamax Triple A cartridges and 1 dozen rounds of 2.75 inch Eley Alphamax # 6 cartridges. After we landed in Darjeeling, the very 1st thing which we did was to make our way to the forest department’s office to collect our licenses as verification that we were actually authorized to hunt down the man eating royal Bengal tiger .
After that , we headed to Sundar Raj Shikar Limited and conversed with Ajay Abhijeet Raj , the elder son of Mr. Sundar Raj . We wanted to get a more clear idea of exactly what had happened to Rongon Daas’s client . Abhijeet had gotten his information from the Garo tracker who had accompanied Rongon Daas and his client to the shikar for the royal Bengal tiger . The Garo tracker’s account of events was as follows :
They had been following the tracks of the brute for 6 hours when they came across the royal Bengal tiger feeding upon a sambhur deer which it had hunted . The client took aim at the royal Bengal tiger and fired at it’s head , at a distance of less than 30 yards . Upon receiving the shot , the brute charged at Rongon , the tracker and the client . Rongon pushed the client to the ground and fled the area as fast as his legs could carry him , while the royal Bengal tiger began to devour the unfortunate client . The tracker escaped the forest on his own and made his way back to Sundar Raj Shikar Limited .
“ Where is the client’s rifle ? “ Tobin asked Abhijeet . Abhijeet opened a cabinet and took out the client’s rifle for us to examine . It was a pre 64 Winchester Model 70 bolt rifle. True enough , it was chambered in .220 Swift. Abhijeet took out a box full of 48 grain soft point cartridges from the cabinet as well , which had been recovered from the corpse of the client . I took 1 of the cartridges in the palm of my hand , and examined it curiously . I asked Abhijeet , “ Now , why would anyone look at a cartridge like this , and think that it is a good idea to use 1 on a royal Bengal tiger ? “ . Abhijeet explained that this American client was a very prominent fire arms writer in his own country and that he was testing a theory . The client had a theory that a light weight bullet driven at extremely high velocities with pin point accuracy , was capable of slaying even the largest of beasts with a shot placed in the vital organs. He had specifically come to Darjeeling to test this theory out on a royal Bengal tiger .
Unfortunately ... his attempt to test out this theory not only cost him his life , but it also unleashed a man eater upon the citizens of Darjeeling and Siliguri .
Hearing this , Tobin said “ Why can’t these bloody gun writers test their little theories on something that can’t bite back ?! The .220 Swift is for prairie dogs and wood chucks . Not the king of cats . “

Below , is a photograph taken from the internet of a .220 Swift cartridge . Tell me 1 thing , dear readers. Exactly how much cocaine or heroine would someone have to consume to look at a cartridge like this , and rationalize that it is an adequate choice for a royal Bengal tiger weighing 500 pounds ?
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Abhijeet then presented us with Rongon Daas’s police statement of the way the events had transpired that day according to him . Rongon’s account of events was as follows :
When the royal Bengal tiger had charged at the client , Rongon had fired 2 shots at it with his Indian Ordinance Factories .315 calibre bolt rifle , which had certainly hit the brute , but failed to stop it from reaching the client . It then mauled the client to death while Rongon fired 2 more shots at it , which drove the injured royal Bengal tiger away from the client’s corpse .

So , there we had it : 2 very different contradictory accounts of what had happened that day . I should add , however that when the Darjeeling police were called to the scene of the incident to recover the client's corpse ... they found no empty .315 calibre cartridge cases whatsoever .
Personally ( and l know that Kawshik will probably not take kindly to me speaking ill of his dearly deceased friend , but he will also forgive me for being brutally honest . ) , l never really liked Rongon Daas 1 bit. Rongon had no experience with hunting anything more dangerous than a sambhur deer ever in his life , but he had used his family connections to become Sundar Raj Shikar Limited's head shikaree . He was what an American gentleman may refer to , as an " ass kisser " of clients who always sang praises about clients in front of them , while he really should have been advising them about what to do and what not to do in the shikar field . Rongon's approach to the profession was , " Buy a cheap gun and a few cartridges and practice shooting at a few bottles. Walk behind the client and pump him full of flattering comments . Get him close enough to the animal and the client will do all of the shooting . Then pump the client with a little bit more flattering and collect all the generous tips . "
It goes without saying that l was vehemently opposed to Rongon's views . Being a professional shikaree was no laughing matter. It was serious business . It was imperative that each of us possess the skills , proper armaments and experience to protect our client at all costs , while they were under our charge. These clients were our responsibility and if need be , it was our obligation to put ourselves directly between the client and the brute , should a wounded dangerous animal charge towards the client . We chose this life and the responsibility that came with it . Even before 1965 , l always knew that someday Rongon would get into an immense amount of trouble for being unable to protect other members of the shikar party and it had finally happened. In fact , the biggest incident which made Kawshik a celebrity among the professional shikarees of West Bengal ( stopping a charging 500 pound royal Bengal tiger from reaching his client , by killing it with 2 SG buck shot cartridges in 1964 . ) would NEVER have occurred in the 1st place ... had Rongon not abandoned the shikar party that day and left Kawshik and the client to fend for themselves . However , that story is Kawshik's to tell and not mine .

But enough talking about Rongon Daas . Tobin and I had a grave task at hand , under the direct orders from Mr . Vidya C Shukla himself . We had to track down a vicious man eating royal Bengal tiger and put an end to it's killing spree.

In the next portion of this story , l shall relate the actual shikar for the vicious man eater .
 

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“And the plot thickens!” OK, needless to say, I’m excited to hear the rest of this story!
And you’ve also teased me into wanting Kawshik to write about he and his client being abandoned!
 

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The very 1st thing which Tobin and l did was to understand the movements of our adversary . All 3 of the brute's victims were killed in the forested area spanning between Darjeeling and Siliguri . Till now , it had targeted a wood cutter , a child and a Hindu priest who liked to meditate in the forest . All the corpses of the brute's victims were missing flesh from the buttocks ; the unmistakable sign that they had run afoul of a royal Bengal tiger , which had turned man eater .
We employed the Garo trackers of Sundar Raj Shikar Limited to aid us in narrowing down the area where the brute was lurking .
Time and again ... both Kawshik and l have sung mighty praises in our articles on African Hunting Forums about the prowess of Garo trackers . And this article is no different , dear readers .
I consider Garo trackers to be the most competent of trackers in this entire world . These tribal hill people who live(d) in the hilly regions of West Bengal were terrifyingly competent at their tasks. To quote good old @Kawshik Rahman , " It was as if Garo trackers had been blessed by Divine Providence itself with the innate ability to track down any beast... large or small . "

Today , was no different . It was not long before the trackers were able to find the paw prints of the brute . Below , l have provided a photograph taken by myself of the paw prints of a man eating royal Bengal tiger.
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The trackers were soon able to narrow down a large patch of forested area where they absolutely GUARANTEED us that the man eating royal Bengal tiger was lurking . We then decided that the best course of action was to organize a beat , in an attempt to flush out the royal Bengal tiger towards us . I saw to gathering 5 dozen local villagers to organize a beat for the next day , while Tobin saw to having a brace of Macchans constructed to allow us to shoot at the brute from an elevated position.
Below , l have provided a photograph taken by myself of a large group of beaters prior to the commencement of a beat.
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Below , l have provided a photograph taken by myself of Kawshik's Nepalese gun bearer , Rishi Chokroborti building a macchan .
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Below , l have provided a photograph taken myself of what a finished macchan looked like , back in those days.
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We then enlisted the help of young Clay Quiah , a junior professional shikaree working for Sundar Raj Shikar . Clay was armed with an Indian Ordinance Factories .315 calibre bolt rifle , loaded with 244 grain soft point cartridges and he was assigned to " beat duty ". This meant that Clay would have to stay behind the line of beaters with his rifle during the entire duration of the beat , in order to protect the beaters, lest the royal Bengal tiger choose to attack the beaters instead of trying to flee from them and getting flushed out towards the shooters .
( Whilst this is a rare occurrence , l have been unfortunate enough to experience this mishap , more than once during my 10 year career . )

Below , is a photograph kindly provided to me by Kawshik , of Clay Quiah standing over the head of a large water buffalo shot by 1 of his clients , after the head had been severed for preparation for mounting . The water buffalo had been shot with a .458 Winchester magnum calibre Birmingham Small Arms bolt rifle .
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Below , l have provided a simple drawing of how a beat for a royal Bengal tiger used to work , back in those days.
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With everything organized , the next day , early in the morning , the beat had commenced . Tobin and l waited nervously in our respective macchans . Tobin was armed with his Fabrique Nationale .423 calibre Mauser bolt rifle , loaded with 347 grain RWS soft point cartridges . I was armed with my " 12 Bore DBBL Made In Belgium " , loaded with a 2.5 inch Eley Grand Prix Lethal Ball cartridge in each barrel .
For 3 hours , we kept hearing the loud drumming and flute playing by the beaters as they moved increasingly closer towards our direction . If the beaters were getting closer towards us , then that meant that the royal Bengal tiger was getting closer towards us , as well .
More time passed . I looked over at Tobin's macchan and saw that my friend was nervously looking over at my macchan . We exchanged glances and even though we did not say a word to each other , we were both deeply worried about the exact same thing :
What if the royal Bengal tiger had escaped the beat , by hiding in a cave somewhere WITHIN the area which the beaters were combing through ? It HAD happened to us before with another royal Bengal tiger and what was to stop this man eater from doing the same thing ?
"No", l convinced myself. The chances of something like this occurring today we're astronomical.
True enough , our worries were unfounded . There , moving silently through the foliage , Tobin and l saw the man eater . He was a huge brute at least 9 feet in length and he was quietly moving towards the direction of our macchans .

Tobin flicked off the safety catch of his Fabrique Nationale .423 calibre Mauser bolt rifle and l readied my Belgian shot gun . 50 yards , 45 yards , 40 yards , 35 yards , 30 yards... the brute was getting closer. He could not let him escape .
Mr. Vidya C Shukla had given us a direct order. When the royal Bengal tiger was within 25 yards of us , Tobin and l jumped to our feet and stood up , snapping up our guns to our shoulders . As the brute looked up to acknowledge out presence , we did not give him much of a chance to react. I instantly fired off both barrels of my Belgian shot gun ,at it's head , right between the 2 eyes . Tobin fired an entire magazine from his .423 calibre Mauser bolt rifle ( 4 cartridges ) at the head of the brute , simultaneously. No body knew how to work the bolt of a bolt rifle faster than dear old Tobin Stakkatz. The brute already fell to the ground before Tobin had gotten off his 3rd shot . But ... there is no kill like over kill .
Tobin hastily loaded 4 more cartridges into the magazine of his Fabrique Nationale .423 calibre Mauser , while l broke open the breech of my Belgian shot gun and turned it up side down , to dump out the 2 empty cartridge cases. I quickly loaded in 2 more 2.5 inch Eley Grand Prix Lethal Ball cartridges and snapped shut the breech of my shot gun . We cautiously approached the lifeless form of the brute , with our guns trained on it . What if it was merely acting dead , and was really just waiting to pounce on us , as we drew closer to it ? However , our concerns were unfounded . True enough , the man eater was slain .
I breathed a sigh of relief , as Tobin put a camel cigarette into his mouth and lit it with his old G.I Zippo lighter . He chuckled at me and said " I only got 1 question , buddy . The boss told us to bring back this thing's head . How the hell do we show the boss a tiger head which looks like THAT ? We completely shot it up ! " .
True enough ; our gun fire had completely made a mess of the royal Bengal tiger's head . But then again , with 2 Eley Grand Prix Lethal Ball bullets and 4 Mauser bullets weighing 347 grains inside it's head ... What Royal Bengal tiger WOULD have it's head intact ?
Below , l have provided a photograph taken by a local villagers of Tobin , Clay and l ( along with Sundar Raj and his family ) near the slain 9 foot brute .
Screenshot_20200211-065510_01_01_01_01_01_01_01_01_01_01_01.png

He weighed 502 pounds and had a most impressive coat .

In the next and final part of this article , l shall share a few reflections on this shikar .
 
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Major Khan

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When Tobin and l returned to Nagpur , we learnt the grim news that Rongon Daas had been hung to death . Mr. Vidya C Shukla was extremely pleased with the fact that it was his men who had slain the brutish man eating royal Bengal tiger .
The public were extremely grateful to Mr. Shukla for sending his men to West Bengal to dispose of the man eater and save so many human lives.
And we were both extremely pleased to make Mr. Shukla proud . He was like a sovereign deity to all of us , who worked under him. Every night , l would always pray that Mr. Shukla's dream of becoming a political figure come true someday .
Unfortunately , you should always be extremely careful about what you wish for . Mr . Shukla did eventually become a part of Indira Gandhi's cabinet after 1970 . However , he then showed us all his real colours . He was that woman's biggest supporter when she passed that disgusting bill to ban all hunting in India with the " Wild Life Protection Act - 1972 ". He publicly painted all hunters to be evil , sadistic and wantonly destructive to India's wild life and eco system . He betrayed all of us who worked for him and left us to the wolves . I was in a hospital in Bangladesh ( which had just won the Liberation War , at that time . ) recovering from my facial injuries at the time , when l saw the news on television.
This was the man whom we had all looked up to . A man for whom l would readily lay down my life any day without any hesitation whatsoever . He turned on his own kind . He betrayed us , just to advance his own political career. In doing so , he sealed the fate of shikar in India for ever .

Before , l end this article , l will make a small note about Rongon Daas . Did he really push that American client to the ground to escape the royal Bengal tiger ? Or did he really shoot at it 4 times , in a failed attempt to protect his client ?
When we did a post mortem on the royal Bengal tiger , we did not find any .315 calibre soft point bullets inside the brute's body . The only bullets which we had recovered from the creature , was those of Tobin's .423 calibre Mauser and my " 12 Bore DBBL Made In Belgium " .
It is possible that Rongon might have missed all 4 shots ... but l suppose that we will never know the truth . What l do know , is that if Rongon really DID push the American client to the ground , then he deserved to get hung to death , because he basically murdered the client . If he really did shoot at the royal Bengal tiger and really did try his best to save his client , then he should not have been hung to death .
Amongst all of my living friends , l truly consider Kawshik to be my best friend and in the last 58 years , there has been very little , which Kawshik and l actually disagree on . 1 thing which we actually do disagree on ( respectfully ) is whether Rongon Daas really WAS guilty of the crime for which he was executed . That is the fundamental difference between Kawshik and l . My friend sees the best in human beings , while l see the worst .
And l greatly respect him for that.

I hope that this article has proven enjoyable , to all of our honorable forum members . I will write my next article on Friday , hopefully . And this story will probably involve a brute which is big , green and scaley .
 

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Wow. Great report. Really interesting. How far behind the Tiger were the beaters?
 

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Dear major Khan,about postmortem - did you find any wound of 220 swift on that tiger?

Great story, btw, I enjoyed it very much, thank you!
 

Major Khan

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Would love to see your shikarees regulation book. Anything historical that can shed light on the history of hunting is a glorious thing. Please post!
It would be my privilege . If you would like me to send it to you , please inbox me so that l remember and can scan all all of the pages and send it to you by tonight .
 

Major Khan

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Dear major Khan,about postmortem - did you find any wound of 220 swift on that tiger?

Great story, btw, I enjoyed it very much, thank you!
I am glad that you have enjoyed the story , Mark Hunter. Unfortunately , Tobin and my gun fire destroyed a good chunk of the brute's head . Therefore , we did not find any signs of the original injury caused by the .220 Swift bullet. The only reason we knew that this royal Bengal tiger was indeed the man eater injured by the American client , was because the trackers ( who had been following the tracks of the injured royal Bengal tiger . )
had narrowed down the area where the royal Bengal tiger was lurking . Since royal Bengal tigers are not herd animals ( except for Tigresses and their immature cubs . ) , the chances of 2 fully grown male royal Bengal tigers operating in such a small proximity of forested area was virtually non existent .
 

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