Pitting Animal Rights Against Human Rights in Accounts of the Morichjhapi Massacre

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2014-04-22
Authors
Ghosh, Monica G.
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Abstract
This paper recalls an event, and its literary renarration by Amitav Ghosh, to explore ways in which issues related to animal “conservation” and the rights of undocumented peoples are set in tension or mobilized against each other, resulting in progressive cycles of violence. In 1979, the communist government of Bengal massacred refugees from Bangladesh/East Pakistan residing in the West Bengal village of Morichjhapi on the edge of the Sundarbans, also the natural habitat of the Bengal Tiger, and covered up the event. Since most Morichjhapi residents were undocumented, the number killed remains unclear. Twenty years later, Ross Mallick uncovered details of the massacre, in which, in Annu Jalais’ phrase, the victims of the massacre were pitted against“[T]igers, in whose name the massacre of Morichjhapi was committed.” Amitav Ghosh takes up this dynamic by which humans and tigers are embroiled in a struggle for life on the land in The Hungry Tide. Taking a cue from Jalais, he incorporates the precolonial story of Bonbibi from the Jaharnama, of Arab origins, which figures prominently in the orature of Morichjhapi survivors. In doing so, Ghosh reveals cycles of violence that originate with the state against powerless communities. Tiger conservation serves as a pretext for violence against people, who in turn retaliate against tigers, seen here as both living beings and as figures of complex ecopoetical issues.
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Morichjhapi Marichjhapi tigers bengal
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