Orissa Abduction: The Tribal And The Peeping Tom Tourists

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By Nitum Jain:

The Orissa abduction case has been doing rounds in the news for quite some time and while one of two kidnapped Italian men, Claudio Colangelo, has been released today; Bosusco Paolo and Jhina Hikaka, a BJD MLA, who was kidnapped a few days after the two, are still dependant on the mediation between the state and the Maoists which sadly stands suspended for now.

While the government contemplates whether to give into the 13-point demands of the red brigade and the PM presses for NCTC taking example of this case, the people of the country are busy posting some interesting views all over the internet.

Akshay Kumar, (Mumbai), “I fully agree with the Maoists. As an Indian, I strongly protest that foreigners should be stopped from entering our tribal areas. They mock at our backwardness, pour in funds to destroy our nature, resort to conversions by tricky, guile means. In South America, in the Amazon Basin, the tribal are considered as an endangered, rare and protected species. Why not in our country? It won’t happen here because we have gutless, spineless politicians who, for vote banks, oblige foreigners, especially from Italy. Ah, there is the hand of Italian High Command that is ruling our country! First it was the British, now it is an Italian.”

This is not just the opinion of one man, but similar comments have been posted on various blogs and comment boxes of the national/regional dailies. Clearly, the emotional baggage left behind by the colonial rule has been passed down the generations and the hatred for the colonisers has been superimposed with hatred for all Europeans. Sixty-five years of freedom and we are yet to settle those feelings to move on and the thirst of revenge propels us to discriminate the abducted for not being ‘tourists’ but being ‘Italians’ and thus deserving what they got.

The tourist situation, though, is something that has to be taken care of; the voyeuristic glances and camera clicks that the people, the ‘exotic poor’ of the country face can be aptly analogised with the attention given to an animal being kept in the zoo by the visitors. I have observed the titillation of the tourists first hand when certain German foreign exchange students were more interested in capturing the homeless and the dogs sleeping on the streets than in the ‘culture’ that they sought when they bought the tickets to India. The tribal communities of the country are closed private spaces, privacy of which should be respected as one would want in their own homes. The Maoist mediators say the Italians had been taking pictures of the tribal women bathing in the stream, an appalling situation to be in for any woman all over the world. I believe that the tribal won’t mind posing for pictures alongside the tourists as can be attested by several smiling portraits you’d find on Google Images, but no one would tolerate such intrusion of personal space in their own lands by any tourists, foreign or urban Indian.

The Maoists, true to their extremist nature, took an extreme step which can’t be justified by any explanation and is a crime through and through. And while this may act as a discouragement for tourists to cross the lines of private thresholds, this may also dent the influx of tourists in the state and the country. But I do hope that once this episode is sufficiently handled, the government works towards making the tourist aware of the trespassing they commit and helps the tribal and the underprivileged maintain the sanctity of their homes and their lives.

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