Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Charge of the City

Is it our hunter mentality which makes us do it or is it that we have so conveniently forgotten where we came from? In past 2 months there have been 3 widely reported incidents where 3 hapless animals who ventured out of jungles and reached nearby human settlements were brutally killed. A hapless bear was lynched by a mob somewhere in Jammu , then a tiger in Nasik and then a leopard in Kashmir again. What makes these incidents extremely appaling is the way these animals were chased relentlessly, cornered and then murdered in most barbaric fashion when they could have easily and safely be captured by forest department and returned to thier natural homes.

Killing of wild animals is nothing new (not that it makes it right) and it is well known that more and more of animals species are becoming extinct. Project Tiger and intervention of Prime Minister himself has done little to change the ground realities for the most majestic of animals, Bengal tiger, which is soul of Jungle. You kill Tiger and you would have killed entire jungle with it. Poaching is a crime which needs to be controlled more systematically and dealt with firmly. Poachers needs to be given harsh punishments ,forest guards needs to be trained adequately and armed sufficiently to deal with poachers. But perhaps, this would not be sufficient as poaching is an organised crime and various links in the whole chain need to be broken to deal with it.

Coming back to incidents I mentioned earlier, they are not case of poaching but murder. They are far more serious because they once again lay bare symptoms of larger underlying problem. The problem of ever depleting forrest cover and ever enlarging and encroaching city (I use this as a general term for any kind of human settlement). Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time our planet was a huge forrest (generalisation but ok when we are dealing with millions of years) and many animals lived there, coexisting in a fine natural equilibrium. Then one of the animals got intelligent and intelligent and more intelligent and cleared some forrest land to make settlements exclusively for itslef. As years passed, these settlements kept on growing and the animal kept on proliferating and forest kept on shrinking. Shrinking of forest also led to decrease in animal population which still lived in forrest. The intelligent animal invented ways and tools to control enviornment where it lived and it created needs to satisfy which it was dependent upon the forrest. It took from forrest almost never returning anything back. Forrest was magnanimous and generous so it gave without complaint and hoped that one day the intelligent animal would stop and realise that forrest was its original home and benefactor and that it could not give forever. The day has not yet arrived, forrest was wrong ; intelligent animal has been blinded by its own intelligence. It is still spreading its settlements ruthlessly by clearing the forrest and killing numerous others who live there by destroying thier habitat. It has forgotten that forrest is a home to many and it is destroying their home to satisfy its own never ending and self created needs and in doing so it is also digging a hole for itself.

When the bear in Pulwama (if I remember), had wandered into a nearby village, it had no idea of what was in store for it. Its own home was encroached by villageres and pilfered regularly. When villagers noticed a lethargic bear suddenly roaming around village , they did not perhaps knew or cared that it was lost, scared, hungry, and tired and wanted to turn back. They could have easily scared it to go back to forrest but they wanted to teach it a lesson, a lesson for trespassing into thier property. They started chasing it , scores of them if not hundreds, and pelting it with stones as it was running away. Suddenly hunter ape in villagers was aroused and hunt was on. They surrounded it, always keeping a distance and throwing whatever they could grab and blocking all the ways of its escape. Chase and attack from a safe distance untill prey tires and then go for the kill, a very old hunting tick. When it was severly hurt and wounded by rain of stones and sticks it fell into a ditch perhaps by exhaustion and pain. Few of valiant villagers pushed a rock into the ditch hitting wounded animals on its back. I dont know if it cried or made any sound, only sound I could hear was of villagers who were increasingly looking and sounding like a warring force fighting a battle against dreaded enemy and smelling victory. As if it was not enough, some crazy lunatic threw a burning piece of cloth on it and set the animal on fire. As it caught fire it made last attempt to run but a barrage of stones again stopped it in its way. It kept burning for quite some time , limping , falling and still trying to run while on fire. It appeared as if death by delaying itslef was also getting a perverse pleasure out of poor animal's agony. When it eventually died, its remains were put on a cart and taken around the village in a procession. Few of villagers atop the cart waved like victorious generals and many more ran after the cart like soldiers who had just vanquished an enemy army and saved pride of thier land.

Almost Similar events occured in other 2 incidents as well, differing only in degree of torture imparted to the trapped animals. In one of incidents (Nasik!!), untrained forrest officials also contributed in torture by suffocating and lethaly wounding a leopard under sticks and stones. May be they have not heard of tranquilisers. May be it is not that surprising, afterall, we are capable of doing much more barbaric act to our own ilk as well. But to do it to a animal which is speachless, lost and trapped and only looking for way out is to prove that we are more animal than those we left behind in jungles. Why have these incidents been happening? Becuase we are proliferating, decimating forrests and taking up the places where these animals live. Where would they go? We are cutting forrests and cities are spreading deeper into jungles. We go and kill animals in forrest and destroy their homes and food and then if they dare to venture out we kill them mercilessly. Dont we understand that our survival is very much dependent upon how our enviornment is and by extenion how other species and animals are. We are not alone here. We have to coexist with varied of animals who are important part of our food chain and environment. We dont have unlimited resources and we are already stretching them.

And to say that we proud ourselves for a culture which speaks about all the life forms being same, orginating from same source!! Our ancestors understood it better than anybody else anywhere. Our scriptures are full of stories where a king becomes a lion in one life and deer in another to show how same life energy transmorgify into different beings (matter). Advaita or philospohy of "oneness" says that all forms animate or inanimate orginate from same source or life energy. Ours is such a society full of paradoxes. One day we can worship a snake which has come out of its hole to enjoy some sun and on other day we can turn ourselves into a ruthless mob hunting a poor animal in most barbaric of fashion.

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