INDIA’S MARAUDING MONKEYS
by Rahul Bedi
November 9, 1993
NEW DELHI: In New Delhi’s corridors of powers, even the politicians walk warily.
India’s most powerful people are merely so much prey to the bands of marauding monkeys that roam the cavernous passageways of North Block (site of the Home and Finance ministries) and South Block (housing the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, Foreign Office and the Defence Ministry.)
The reverence, bordering on awe, in which India’s 700-million-member Hindu community holds the animals, gives the monkey squads virtually free rein.
The “King” — so dubbed by North Block security staff — heads a squad of around 25 monkeys which, municipal officials believe, come from the nearby Ridge Forest.
And they are “undisputed masters of most central government offices,” says a Home Ministry official, often indulging in an “orgy of file shredding” on holidays.
Workers on weekend duty are terrified to enter either block alone — fearing they will be set upon — and often take circuitous routes to their offices. Most women walk in pairs knowing, to their cost, the simians penchant for single women.
But the problem isn’t limited to government.
Led by “ringleaders” — normally the biggest and most vicious — monkey squads range almost a kilometre to Vayn Bhawan, headquarters of the Indian Air Force, and to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the country’s flagship medical research hospital some eight kilometres away.
Windows of all wards, especially in the post-operative wing, are kept closed against the roving gangs, descendants of escapees from the institute’s laboratories over three decades ago. Official estimates put the monkey population in and around the institute at around 200 but hospital staff reckon it to be higher.
It is not uncommon for nurses and patients to be chased by playful — often flirtatious — monkeys down institute corridors. Patients in post-operative wards have often come round to find grinning red-bottomed monkeys either sharing their bed or playing with their life-support systems.
And over the years, several people have been bitten — and then faced a course of painful anti-rabies injections.
Attempts by medical institute security to shoot the marauding monkeys have been abandoned after angry protests from hospital staff and patients.
Hanuman — the mythic monkey god who was the fearless assistant to the Lord Rama in his battle against Ravana, the evil god king of Lanka — is among the most revered gods in the Hindu pantheon. India has thousands of thriving temples dedicated to him.
When security staff replaced guns with tranquilizer darts, the intelligent animals hid — only to retaliate later by sneaking into wards and destroying equipment and terrifying medical staff.
Attempts to find the monkeys new homes have also failed.
A move to trap and dump them on the outskirts of Delhi was abandoned after protests from environmentalists and animal rights groups, who claimed the monkeys would perish if divorced from familiar surroundings.
INDIA’S MARAUDING MONKEYS (1993)