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The tragic killing of Avni, the tigress, indicates helplessness of humans against themselves

By S N Sahu | PUBLISHED: 10, Nov 2018, 22:34 pm IST | UPDATED: 24, Nov 2018, 0:07 am IST

The tragic killing of Avni, the tigress, indicates helplessness of humans against themselves The killing of Tigress Avni on the ground that  she was a man eater caused outrage across the nation and in many parts of the world. It  generated widespread disapproval of the action of the State Government in putting an end to the life of a protected species of life which enjoys the exalted status of national animal. Union Minister Menka Gandhi described the killing as "murder"  demonstrating "utter lack of empathy for animals" and she asserted that as a test case she would take it up "legally, criminally as well as politically".

Shri Rahul Gandhi's disapproval of the killing of the tigress was reflected in his tweet where he quoted Mahatma Gandhi  words- "The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Indeed the moot question is if the might of the Republic got weakened in killing the national animal because it posed danger to human life. Indeed the killing  of Avni puts a question mark on the capability of humans to deal with such a tigress without taking away its life. Tiger is  protected by law because it faced  extinction at a faster pace posing danger to biodiversity.

A few days back the death anniversary of late Prime Minister of India Shrimati Indira Gandhi was observed. It was she who initiated the Project Tiger to save the tiger species from near extinction. Her sensitivity in launching such a Project resulted in saving the tiger from poaching and increasing its population to 2500 which of course is much less than  40,000 tigers India had in the beginning of twentieth century.
The modern civilisation marked by faster pace of urbanization and clearing of forests which are the habitats of animals has intensified the human and animal conflict and putting in peril the flora and fauna which are categorical imperatives for ecological conservation and security. The faster pace of dwindling of wildlife in India and across the world is a matter of serious concern for the planet earth which is passing through a new geological age named as the Age of Anthropocene by Australian nobel laureate professor Paul Crutzen.

According to this term human beings are dominating in this geological age and too much of human activities have resulted in catastrophic consequences for nature and a variety of species of life. The killing of Avin or killing of wild life is an indication of human intervention, by employing  weapons as also the architecture of law and jurisprudence, is an ominous sign of the Age of Anthropocene which possibly began with the advent of industrial revolution and has reached a stage marked by creation of carbon economy, global warming,  climate change  and harzardous  air pollution.

While Rahul Gandhi tweeted by quoting Mahatma Gandhi that "The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated," it is worthwhile to quote another line from Gandhiji who had said that wild life in jungles was declining and increasing in the larger society. Turning the search light inwards shall we say that the  killing of tigress Avin is a grim reminder of the declining level of wild life in jungles and increasing level of wild tendencies  among humans?

In this age of fast paced developments in science and technology to track anything and everything including species of life in deep recesses of forests, it sounds unbelievable that a so-called man eater  could not be tracked and tranquilized by employing the advanced methods and techniques to do so? Are humans who are encroaching on habitats of wildlife so helpless in dealing with a tiger so as to take away its life? The outrage caused by the unfortunate killing of a tigress which had cubs affirm the violent display of the supremacy of humans and their predominance in the Age of Anthropocene which is causing the mass extinction of species in an unprecedented manner.

The scientist who discovered ozone layer had said that rights enjoyed by human beings particularly the right to life should be extended to all species of life as a measure to save planet. The Supreme Court of India while banning Jallikattu, the bull taming festival, took note of the violation of the law concerning prevention of cruelty to animals. The Fundamental Duties of the Constitution which are not justifiable provides that a citizen of India is duty bound  to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.

Even the Supreme Court has declared that the rivers are entitled to rights enjoyed by citizens. With such enlightened, broad and liberal interpretation of rights  and their extension to animate and inanimate forms we cannot afford to kill a tigress in twenty first century India marked by growing planetary consciousness.

The world famous historian professor Arnold Toynbee wrote that "The human race's prospects of survival were considerably better when we were defenceless against tigers than they are today when we have become defenceless against ourselves".

The humans had better prospects for survival when they were helpless against tigers. The killing of Tigress Avni represented our inability to defend ourselves. It is indeed a sad commentary that a tigress could not be controlled by any other means except through a gun which was fired to snatch away her life. Humans are indeed defenceless against themselves.
#The author Satya Narayan Sahu served President of India late Shri K.R.Narayanan, Prime Minister's Office and Rajya Sabha Secretariat.
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