By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
Since some time back we have been hearing about man-animal conflict. Apparently herds of elephants quite often come out from their forest habitats to the plains in search of food and shelterand in the proces take to destraction of human dwellings while damaging crops in the fields. While news of wild elephants breaking open granneries and gobbling up of stored food grains hit the headline quite often, the media has also reported several instances of human beings being killed after being trampled down by elephants. In short herds of wild elephants are letting loose havod in different parts of Assam since sometime. With the suffering of the people in certain areas rising by leaps and bounds on account destruction caused by elephants and fear registering a rising trend due to the presence of wild elephants in vicinity of some villages, the people in several parts of the State are seemingly a helpless lot. Worst of all, the forest department has miserably failed to do away with the mece.
Significantly, the pertinent question that arises is -- can the elephants be blamed for the emerging scerio? While forests are the habitats of wild animals, human beings have illegally encroached the habitats of wildlife. Human beings have taken to outright robbery of forest wealth while denuding forests to set up residential buildings as well as industrial units without bothering about the necessity of wilflife or the environmental degradation. With their habitats in a state of ruin, the wild animals are left with no option other than shifting to other areas in search of food and shelter. The seeming encrochment of human habitations by wild elephants is just a reaction to the encroachment and destruction of their habitats by human beings. The destructive activities indulged in by wild elephants are actually for their self-preservation anf not revengeful in character.
It is indeed d and sad that a sizable section of human beings do not have the minimum of compassion for animals. The believers in God tend to forget that the Almighty has created both human beings and animals. Hence, the right that animals have to live on this planet is as much as human beings have. Unfortutely, the rights of animals is hardly recognised. Man is considered to be the best output of the evolutiory process. While, famous philosopher Leibnitz had declared that God created man in his own image, the actions and behaviour of human beings do not justify this statement. The brutality and cruelity indulged in by human beings towards the animal world only points to the fact that anything godly is remote to such activities.
Human beings seem to think that animals were created by God for their use. So they treat animals as inferior and have not the slightest consideration for them. In the ancient era, human beings had very good relation with animals. In the Ramaya, Maharshi Valmiki wrote about the warm relation that existed between man and animal. When Sita was abducted by Rava, a bird med Jatayu tried to free her from the clutches of Rava. The bird fought valiantly with Rava, who cut its wings and Jatayu fell to the grownd. When Rama and Laksma came in search of Sita, they were informed by the bird that Rava had abducted Sita. While Jatayu died soon after, Rama and Laksma performed the last rites of the bird with great devotion. Such was the relation between man and wild life in those ancient days.
Again Rama's great army consisted mostly of monkeys, bears and other animals in his war against Rava. Man had great respect for tural flora and fau and human beings were closely related to the forests. After a certain age people used to go to the forest to practice "Vanprastha" and "Sanyas". Ramchandra went to the forest with Sita and Laksma to serve 14 years of "Vanvas" to fulfill the pledge of his father to Queen Kaikeyi. In the Mahabharata too the Pandavas with their wife Draupadi went for 12 years of "Vanvas" after being defeated by Sakuni in the infamous game of dice in the court of Hastipura.
In Kalidasa's Abhigya Sakuntalam it can be noted that ture was witness to Sakuntala's wedding with king Dushyanta. At the time of the departure of Sakuntala to her husband's home, the trees of the ashrama bestowed wedding gifts on Sakuntala. Perhaps these rrations and the anthropomorphic view of ture were just the imagition of the author. But these poetic descriptions do demonstrate the fact that man was closely connected to ture. In that age, ture was regarded as a divine deity.
But today human beings do not venerate ture. Magnificent animals like elephants, tigers and lions are used for commercial benefit. These animals are used in circuses to entertain human beings with the puropse of earning money, while the slightest of attention to the animals' pain and suffering in not attended to. People tend to forget that animals are also living beings with feelings.
While animal meat is consumed by a guge section of the people, some are killed only to to extract some of their organs and sell the same at a huge price. As of now, killing of the one-horned rhinoceroses is becoming virtually a routine affair. The horn of the rhino is reported to fetch a huge price in the intertiol market which of course is underground. The horn is reported to be used for making jewellery and also medicine. Be that as it may, but it is crystal clear that people do not hesitate to make their fortune out of the misfortune of the rhinoceros.
Again for decoration of homes skins of some animals are used. The skin of the leopard is used as carpet or sofa cover or wall decoration in the drawing rooms of some wealthy people. The tusks of elephants too are used for decorating walls of drawing room. While people have no compassion towards these unfortute wild animals, the animals on their part have no ignoble feelings against anybody, not even against human beings, who treat them with such cruelty.
Man perhaps thinks that animals have no feelings. But it is wrong If a tiger cub is lost, the mother searches for the cub everywhere. Every mother animal looks after her young ones. A dog faithfully guards his master. Hence, we cannot say that animals have no feelings. They have love and other feelings in abundance.
It is unfortute that man use animals to attain selfish ends. With tremendous scientific and technological progress, man has made unbelievable advancement. But this success has gone to his head and he has become arrogant. Today he thinks that nothing is impossible for him. Man has also usurped God's power by claiming that science has acquired the ability to extend the life span of human beings. No wonder that in his arrogance he treats the animals as insignificant things, who exist only to serve human beings. Their only duty is to serve humanity in any capacity.
Once man and animals lived happily in their separate habitats. There was no question of man's interference in the life of animals. Man respected animals and valued their suggestions. Logic states that the connotation of animal is animality, while the connotation of man is animality and ratiolity. So we observe that animals do not have ratiolity and so they cannot think ratiolly. Because they have ratiolity, man is intellectually superior to animals. But they have animality as well. Logic says that "man is a ratiol animal". So man has animality as well as ratiolity. Hence he has affinity with animals. It is clear that man shares some quality with animals. Then how can we regard them as some insignificant non-entities?
Animals and humans have some common characteristics. They may not have ratiol faculty, but they behave in the same way as humans do. Like human beings they also need a home to live. The female animals give birth to babies and the mothers look after their little kids. They also become sad when something bad happens to their offspring. Even if they do not have reasoning capacity, they instinctively act like human beings. In Darwin's "Biological Evolution" it is stated that every species arises out of another species accidentally. Man is a product of monkeys. So it seems that in Darwin's theory all the species are interconnected with one another. Possibly the people in the ancient era understood this fact and so they regarded animals as their equals.
Whether you accept Darwin's Biological theory of evolution or the theory of creation, you have to realise that animals are living beings and they greatly help humans in their struggle for existence. Without animals human beings would not have survived. But we do not realise the contribution of animals for our well-being. Man has ruthlessly destroyed tural resources for his own benefit. They have taken over the forests for their own use. As a consequence animals have lost their homes and food as well. So they have to infiltrate into human territory for food and shelter.
I do not think that animals have any ulterior motive for invading human habitation. Possibly they do not bear any grudge against humanity, though man has brought too much suffering on them. We are too selfish to think about others. Human beings have usurped the habitats of animals without having the least consideration for these dumb animals, who have done us no wrong. But when these homeless animals come to the human habitats in search of food and shelter, we become vociferous in our protest. Elephants have visited certain areas and people are angry. They pelt stones on the dumb creatures or beat them with sticks to drive them away.
It is true that the elephants have been destructive in their behaviour. We have heard that they have killed several people by trampling over them. They have also damaged crops in the fields and have destroyed homes and storehouses. I believe that the elephants do not nurture any idea of revenge in their minds. Their actions may be described as instinctive action. Whatever harm they are doing to humanity is surely unintentiol. If human beings do not want the elephants to come to their habitats, then they should also vacate animal habitation and they must not destroy forests and their resources. That way we can get rid of various kinds of pollution, which may lead to the extinction of the earth as well as humanity. I think it is time human beings considered their own actions positively. If they treated animals fairly and had accorded proper respect to them, then surely there would have been no man-animal conflict and man and animals would have lived peacefully in their God-given tural habitats. In that case what a paradise the earth would be! Let us then pray to Providence for a peaceful earth, where all will live happily together.