Friday, August 12, 2011
The difference between conflict and onslaught
My standard morning begins with reading about an elephant getting electrocuted or a person being trampled to death in the morning papers. Hardly a day passes when there isn't news on human-elephant conflict. And this is just in local news, from just one state. As my day proceeds, of course, more biodiversity is usually added as more news pours in—typically of a leopard being pulped to death somewhere by a sadistic mob seeking an excuse for a thrill, or of a tiger getting mowed down on a highway that has cut through its forests. In this link is yet another scene from the alarming new routine across India's last remaining wildernesses, as mines drive away wild animals from their last asylums and highways come in the way of these refugees, on the run in their own home. All in the name of 'infrastructure' and 'development' to cater to a cancerously growing population of 1.2 billion people bent upon increasing their appetite for the planet (read GDP) at a minimum of 10 per cent per annum and in no seeming hurry to restrict their penchant for procreation.
Conflict is supposed to be two sided. A one-sided onslaught cannot be called conflict. I feel increasingly opposed to the use of this term in the context of humans and wildlife. I wonder why we call it human-tiger, human-elephant or human-leopard conflict, when the offensive is entirely ours. These animals, like the desperate elephants in the video in the link, just want the most basic of rights—the right of safe passage. They are as non-confrontational as non-confrontational can be. What we, as a race, are doing to the last remnants of our mega-fauna cannot, by any measure, be termed as mere conflict. It is plain and simple massacre—indiscriminate, brutal and criminal. And for all our 'humanitarian' values, we, as a race, have historically thrived on this massacre.
I am typically not the kind who gives up hope and rants in pessimism and am sometimes even ‘accused’ of choosing to see light in the most hopeless of conservation cases, or rather, gone-cases! The way things are, hope and optimism are the only weapons for those who battle for conservation. But after watching this video, for once, I can’t help yielding to that nagging feeling of helplessness despite which we must all fight on.