By Suman Das:
Hungry and thirsty tigers are a growing threat in Sunderbans. In a tussle over land, the fiery beasts are now attacking villagers who enter their forests for crab hunting, fishing and wood. Global warming has led to an increase in the tiger-man conflict in the area. Especially since the water level has risen 45 cm increasing the salinity content in Sunderbans forcing the tigers to move closer towards the village.
As agriculture and fishing become increasingly unviable in the islands due to natural calamities and salt water ingression, a sizeable number of farmers in the Sunderbans have become migrant labourers. For those who could not migrate, the only available options are fishing, hunting crabs and collecting honey from the dense mangrove forested area – all occupations that pose immense threat to their lives.
45-year-old Jayanta Pradhan is the resident of Baikunthapur, Maipith West Bengal. He and his partners went to the river side for hunting crabs when he faced a sudden tiger attack. His partners saved him, and he survived even though he got 50 stitches on his right ear. Jayanta Pradhan says “I cannot hear through right ear anymore.”
Madhu Dutta, who was attacked by a tiger in the rice fields at her village Kishorimohonpur in the year 2001, says “The tiger entered the village, we all tried to scare it away, but the tiger bit my right arm.”
In 2011, Lata Jana, wife of Satyabrata Jana, went to the river for fishing and was killed by a tiger at the age of 52.
Nepal Adok (60) went to the forest for collecting woods and was attacked from behind. He, his wife Jamuna and their granddaughter in the picture. He still hears the roar of the Royal Bengal Tiger. “The tiger was dragging me to the core of the forest, and I was praying and telling myself ‘seshe amake bagher kache morte hobe, vogoban amake bachao daya kore’ (Finally is this my end? In the mouth of a tiger! Please God, save me).” Adok further adds that this was when the tiger suddenly left him to go away and luckily he escaped from certain death.
Aminul Molla (55) who cannot speak properly because of the injury he incurred when a tiger attacked him in 2010. In the photo above he is showing the scars on his face and chest.
Sandhya Bhunia, mother of Bappa Bhunia, who was 22-years-old when a tiger killed him. Bappa’s mother broke down seeing her son’s picture. “He went to the forest on Saturday with 20 people including his three brothers to hunt some crabs, and he returned in the evening completely fine. But the next time he went to the forest he did not come back. Bappa’s wife Rakhi Bhunia was taken away by her family and was forced to marry again after his death” said the grieving mother.
A tiger killed Prabin Singh, who went to hunt crabs in the river. It was only later that Subal Singh found his son’s wounded body. He is survived by his wife Chandana Singh and her two sons Subrata (ten) and Sanjay (six).
Khudiram Naskar (65), was yet another crab hunter who was attacked by a tiger.