“Adivasis no longer walk among the elephants without fear” – Human animal conflict on the rise – Tamil Nadu, Kerala & Chhattisgarh

Hungry elephant on the rampage
Photo courtesy Davidson Sargunam >>

On March 30, Kokila, an Adivasi woman, was collecting firewood with a few friends near Kozhikolly village in the Devala area of Gudalur taluk, 50 km below Udhagamandalam, when she was charged by an angry elephant. It hurled her to the ground. Mercifully, I hope, she died instantly. The elephant kicked her around like a football and smashed her into a pulp. An Adivasi who saw the incident said, “It was terrible. She was smashed to pieces, like chamandi actually. We had to collect the bits and put them into a sack. It was a sad and sickening task. We could not prepare her for burial according to our rites. There was no body left.”

A passionate conservationist asked me, “Did they get compensation?” The question angered me. Kokila was a lively, feisty, irrepressible woman. Panichis, women belonging to the Paniya tribe, are independent, proud and they tend to keep to themselves. Kokila was different. She represented her people, even becoming a Panchayat member, really unusual for a Panichi woman. I recall her taking a lead on stage in dramas. She was bold and theatrical, making everyone laugh, dancing infectiously with abandon, urging everyone to join her. How do you compensate the death of such a woman? Of any woman for that matter? Can you replace the person for her family? Her children? Her people? […]

Does anyone deserve to die in such a dreadful manner, for absolutely no fault of their own?

I live on the edge of a forest and all my friends and community are passionate about conservation. When elephants break our water tanks, or create havoc for a few days, we accept it philosophically. After all, we are living on their turf, in once-uninhabited terrain. It’s okay to lose a little. For the poorer population, a paddy or banana field gone is their entire livelihood. I shudder when I hear people throwing huge loud firecrackers to chase away the menace. I’m even more distraught when I hear that they throw burning tyres, which will stick on the elephants’ skin, cause terrible pain and is the only thing guaranteed to make the animal move. But I know I’m reacting like a city armchair environmentalist, sitting safe and sound in my solid stone bungalow listening to the screaming and the firecrackers from a comfortable distance while poor people battle for their lives, their livelihoods and their precarious homes. […]

Elephant with festering wounds
Learn more on human-animal conflicts across India >>

Even as I mourn the dead victims — collateral damage, wild lifers would say perhaps — I understand the rage of the elephants. Elephant behaviour has drastically changed even in the last two decades I’ve lived here. Every pachyderm has bullet wounds festering and hurting the animal; injuries that have driven the once-docile beasts to regard humans as the enemy. Adivasi elders tell us that they walked among the elephants without fear 50 years ago. Those days are long gone. […]

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Source: “Who will bell the big cat?” by Mari Marcel Thekaekara, The Hindu, 14 April 2012
Address : https://www.thehindu.com/arts/magazine/article3314376.ece
Date Visited: Sun Apr 15 2012 13:17:16 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Village communities in Chhattisgarh’s Dharamjaigarh block continue to struggle with brutal human-elephant conflict.

In May 2019, Sanctuary’s Project Leader Sajal Madhu reported three separate encounters resulting in human deaths from the region. […]

A Greenpeace report states that human-elephant conflict in Chhattisgarh started in the late 80’s with the migration of wild herds from the neighbouring states of Odisha and Jharkhand, prompted by the devastation of forests due to mining. Shamefully, in the decades since the problem first arose, the Indian government has continued to side with mining interests at the cost of local communities and biodiversity.

Source: HEC Death Toll Continues To Rise In Chhattisgarh
URL: https://www.sanctuaryasia.com/conservation/news/10931-hec-death-toll-continues-to-rise-in-chhattisgarh
Date visited: 7 June 2020

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