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8 November, 2009 - Pema Chezom, 52, was shocked with what she saw in her maize field on the morning of October 9. A man was lying face down near her house in Yonphula, Kanglung.
He looked familiar and on a closer look recognised him as her paternal uncle, a tshampa. His legs looked burnt below the knees. He was dead.
The Trashigang police arrested her the same day on charges of negligent homicide. Her uncle had accidentally touched the inner fencing of her field with his legs, which she had electrified a month before.
With her potato harvest from her five-langdo-field (a langdo is what an oxen ploughs in a day) lost to wild boars, Pema Chezom had erected a barbed wire fence around her field, the electric fencing is inside the barbed wire fencing, to protect her maize crop, double cropped with potato.
“I bought about four bundles of wire to fence my fields,” said Pema Chezom who lives with her only daughter and companion. They have been guarding the fields ever since her husband passed away 15 months ago.
The fencing didn’t prove effective so Pema decided to use electricity after hearing about it from her neighbours. She inserted the bare electric wires into an extension cord in the kitchen and tied it around small wooden poles to cover a 20 feet area inside the main fencing from which the boars usually entered. “The boars are intelligent and they try to come from the other side,” she said. But the electric fence had helped to reduce damage.
“I was aware of the danger of electricity but I had run out of options,” she said. There are also others in her village using similar methods to protect their crops. “All people in the village knew we’re using the electric fencing,” she said. “I would put it on at nine at night and switch it off before 5 am.”
Neighbours said that it was very unlikely that her fencing could harm anyone since it was inside the main barbed wire fencing. “The wild boars come very close to our homes and don’t budge no matter what we do,” said Pema Chezom’s daughter, Ugyen Lhamo. “And this year animal attacks increased manifold.”
The tshampa’s daughter, Tshering Dema, said that her father had left their home early in the morning of Oct 6. “He had said the previous morning that he wanted to go to Udzorong to treat some people so we thought he had gone there and didn’t look for him,” she said. It was not known why he visited Pema Chezom’s maize field.
“What had happened had happened so we don’t want to charge our relative,” she said. “What happened was purely by chance.”
Villagers said similar incidents had also happened in other villages. “We’ve heard a man died eight years ago in Bidung and in Jomtsang under Udzorong some time ago,” said Bumpa. Villagers also said that despite repeated discussions in numerous sessions of the gewog yargay tshogdus, nothing had been done.
Pema Chezom has been granted bail and is waiting for her summon order from the court. She was let out on November 3, after spending 26 nights in Lungzor jail worried sick about her daughter alone at home and her maize crop. But the incident has disturbed her and she is afraid to go back home.
“I don’t know if I should be guilty. I did what I did to save my crops,” said Pema Chezom who is temporarily staying with her sister.
By Tshering Palden