THE ABSURD DIVIDE

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 17 Nov 2018 12:42:42

 

It was a day of grief and also of jubilation for wildlife lovers. While three cubs of a tigress walking on a train track that passed through forest area, were run over by a train, their worst fears regarding T1 Tigress’ cubs proved wrong as the two cubs were sighted on Thursday, about a fortnight after T1’s death. As fate has it, despite a lot of efforts to conserve wildlife, living always on the periphery of human expanse, has little chance. The need of the hour is to ensure that T1 Tigress’ cubs survive and live on.
- Introduction to a ‘Hitavada’ news package about death of three cubs on train track and sighting of two cubs whose man-eater mother -- T1 Tigress -- was shot down in Vidarbha’s forest area in Maharashtra.

THE whole affair of trying to contain the murderous attacks and killing of as many as 14 humans by T1 Tigress in Yavatmal forests has created a lot of confusion in popular minds about principles of conservation of wildlife and handling of the challenge of what has come to be loosely described as man-animal conflict. Unless we evolve a clearer idea of how we, the humans, must respond to the challenge, we will never be able to tackle the tough task on hand -- of establishing a better bilateral relation with the forests and flora and fauna therein. If we fail to do so in the near future, we will keep facing T1 Tigress-like situations every now and then. And then we will blame ourselves as a community -- without looking for credible solutions.

There is a massive divide that keeps two groups among us terribly apart and almost hostile to the other side, although without much reason. One side believes in killing the animal if it is violent and with murderous tendencies, like this T1 Tigress who had gobbled up 14 humans in the space of a few months, their concern for human safety being paramount.

The other side belongs to people who claim themselves as conservationists of wildlife, and oppose any effort to contain a violent animal. The philosophy of this side is that no matter how violent and murderous may the animal be, it should be protected and never shot. At the most, it can be tranquilised and caged forever, but never, never, never killed. This group often treats human life as secondary to animal life.

As a society, we should be very worried about this kind of absurd philosophy. When the efforts were on to contain T1 Tigress, this group was clamouring for the animal’s safety at any cost. “Tranquilise her”, it shouted from airconditioned chambers, one of which belonged to a woman Union Minister who has long back lost her sense of proportion. She -- the woman Union Minister -- went to the extent of branding Maharashtra’s Forest Minister as a “blood-thirsty politician” who prided in killing a tigress.

Oh, my God! (Expression and italics mine)
Then came yet another clutch of twists. One of these super-pseudo-conservationists said, “When T1 Tigress was shot, she was not looking at the gunman, and that meant she was cheated upon”.

Oh, my God!

Then people of this conservationist group demonstrated against the sharp-shooter with placards displaying filthy messages about him being an animal-hater. Some politicians saw an opportunity to blast the ruling party on this occasion.

But even as this was happening, lakhs of people in the affected region burst fire-crackers and celebrated a Diwali before Diwali festival and distributed sweets and felicitated the shooters. They also prepared to file defamation suits against the Union Minister who seemed to have gone berserk with her love for animals. And they decided to have a serious rethink on the larger issue involved.

In sharp contrast, the so-called conservationists refused to have any rethink or the need to contain their own over-stretching of the issue. They never shed even crocodile tears for those 14 humans gobbled up by T1 Tigress, but were ready to hold all-night candle-light vigil for the annihilated animal. Their stand appeared far more absurd than the absurdest of comedies we have ever seen in cheap Hindi movies or horrible television serials.

It is time these pseudo-conservationists learned some decent lessons in sanity. It is also time they learned the importance of human dignity and human life. Nobody would ever want to kill an animal for the heck of it or for joy. Modern civil society chooses to eliminate animals only when things go out of control, which had happened in the case of T1 Tigress. So, they must understand the importance of the issue in a wholesome perspective and not in a piece-meal manner. They must realise that efforts of tiger-conservation around the world have shown good results. Experts also insist that with proper measures, the tiger population in the world could triple in a few more years.

All these good things are happening on the tiger front only because some sensible people took a stand decades ago and worked for it all along in dense jungles and hostile conditions, even though the so-called conservationists were holding seminars in five-star hotels. The efforts of countless dedicated people who have worked on Tiger Projects must be recognised -- not through pseudo-intellectualism but through sane, practical approach. When this perspective is acquired, a lot of good things will happen on their own.

True, reduction of man-animal conflict is a major issue. But more important than that is to start getting engaged in a practical, problem-solving mode so that future episodes like the T1 Tigress will be handled by the larger community with dignity -- to both, humans and animals. Amen!