Dehra Dun : It is very rare that anyone takes on a full grown leopard one-to-one and lives to tell the tale. Manoj Gusain, a â€˜shiksha mitraâ€™ in a primary school at Pokhra in Kotdwara tehsil of Uttarakhand, is now recuperating from the wounds he suffered in the hand-to-hand combat with the feline, but says he has no regrets taking on the carnivore despite knowing the odds were stacked against him.
Manoj, a resident of Gawani village in the same area, was going to the primary school, when he saw the leopard crouching in the bushes in the periphery of the agricultural fields along the path. Apprehending that the feline was lying in wait for the children that would soon be flocking the path to their way to the school, he decided to take on the leopard to save the oncoming children.
Initially he tried to shoo away the big cat, who desperate to make a kill took no heed to Manojâ€™s gestures and throwing of stones. In fact, infuriated at being deprived of its food, the feline started snarling and growling at Manoj, who thought it best, in the interest of the safety of the children to take the beat head on. In a rare show of chivalry, rather than the leopard attacking him, he pounced on the animal.
According to eye witnesses Manoj had pushed his left hand in the throat of the animal and had his right hand round hand round the felineâ€™s neck trying to choke it in a vice like grip. The animal kept attacking the young man with its paws creating deep wounds from where blood gushed.
The scuffle continued for about 10 minutes, by which time the people who gathered got out of their shock and picked up sticks to attack the animal. Seeing the large number of people coming at it with sticks, the feline freed itself and made a quick exit to the nearby oak forest, where it retreated into the thick undergrowth.
The oak forest is said to be home to a number of leopards that prowl in the region and are known to lift animals, specially dogs, goats, sheep and calves. Attacks on human beings, even children are rare, but wild life experts were of the view that the leopard had probably gone old, or been injured by another leopard because of which it was lying in wait for an easy prey.
A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt was Editor, Hill Post (Uttarakhand).
Jagdish had worked with India’s leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, he was a recipient of many awards
Jagdish Bhatt, aged 72, breathed his last on 28th August 2021 at his Dehradun residence.