… the choeten vandal survived on wild potatoes, corn 

Rinzin Wangchuk 

In the past few weeks, villagers of Rekhey in Dewathang gewog, Samdrupjongkhar, observed that the winter corn in their maize fields and hens gradually vanish. Some even lost their packed lunches mysteriously.

Some villagers lost pots and sickles from their temporary huts in the fields to guard crops against wild animals.

Only on December 21, after almost two months of the mysterious disappearance of their crop and properties did they realise there was a thief lurking in their vicinity. That was when Kancha Rai, a choeten vandal sentenced to life imprisonment, was rearrested by a team of police and villagers from the jungle of Rekhey Laptshor between Dewathang and Rekhey around 11.20am.

Kancha Rai was reportedly surviving on maize, wild potatoes, and farmers’ packed lunch for 54 days after he fled from the police outpost custody in Samdrupjongkhar on the evening of October 29.  

Rekhey Tshogpa Chogyal Norbu said that he received a complaint from the owner of Wangchhelo poultry farm saying that two hens were missing from his farm on December 20.

“I suspected the escapee, who was still at large, could be the thief and immediately reported to the police,” he told Kuensel.

Four RBP personnel then came to Rekhey to conduct a search in the jungle. Rekhey Tshogpa and two other villagers joined the team.

During the search, they intercepted the escaped convict, who then attempted to run away immediately. In the process, he jumped off the cliff injuring himself in his face and head which made it easy for the police to nab and restrain him.

“He was running so fast that I thought we may not catch him,” Tshogpa Choyal Norbu said.

The 38-year-old man was living in a shed that he made out of plastic, cloth and branches. The search team found that he had cooked a pot of wild potatoes, and saved 21 stolen maize corns. He had some roasted maize and maggie noodle packets in a plastic bag and 15 cans of energy drinks.

On December 7, the Tshogpa found a fire that was made and several traces of holes dug for wild potatoes below Rekhey village. He immediately mobilized a team of 11 men and combed the whole area. “However, we could not find anyone and had to return home,” Tshogpa Chogyal Norbu said.

Kuensel learnt that the RBP had deployed a search team continuously after receiving information from villagers about the loss of packed lunches, chicken, pots, sickle and maize crops from the huts of villagers and several traces of holes dug for wild potatoes and bird traps in the jungle.

The tshogpa said that there were a few incidents where farmers lost their packed lunch while they were clearing their fields and forest for shifting cultivation.

Rekhey village is about 24 kilometres from Samdrupjongkhar town, between Dewathang and Samdrupchholing. 

From Dumtoe village, Samtse dzongkhag, Kanchan Rai was convicted for choeten vandalism by the Paro dzongkhag court on July 2001.

How Kanchan Rai escaped from Samdrupjongkhar jail was not known. But according to some sources, he fled from the outpost when others were busy attending religious ceremony.

The police officers concerned in Samdrupjongkhar could not be contacted for confirmation.