Stories Of Divine Curse
The tiger victim widows and destitute children are suffering from severe socio-economical distress in Sundarbans. Please read the following stories to know more and support them with all the possible relief you could.
Tears rolled down, as she recollected the horror of her late husband Srinath Mondal’s death in the dense forest of Sundarbans while firmly gripping onto the shoulders of her two young children, Jitu and Monika. It was a gloomy morning, when Rita’s husband Srinath went out with his friends of Amlamethi village, in search of pure honey. That was the last time Rita saw her husband. She said, she had sensed something would go wrong that day, she tried to restrict Srinath but unfortunately, he did not listen to her. He promised to come back with a lot of honey that he would sell and get money for a good dinner that night. Little did he know, about the impending danger and death that he would face and never come back to his family. Srinath Mondol did return, not in person but as death news to his family. Srinath's body was never traced after the tiger attack.
The family was ruined on that very instant as Srinath was the only earning member. Rita’s in-laws immediately threw her out, marking her as a cursed lady who took their son’s life and branded her as a ‘husband eater’. Thereafter, Rita took shelter in a small abandoned enclosure located towards the southeast corner of the village. Poverty and hunger became their close associates as days passed in the forests of Sundarban. Rita’s son couldn’t find a way to the school, as it required monthly fees and other expenditures which she was failing to manage, even after working temporarily in few occasions. Rita, Jitu, and Monika are in extreme distress these days.
Vill -Mathurakhanda, P.O - Amlamethi, Gosaba, South 24 paraganas
Gita Sardar, a widow and mother of three, recollects the horrible incident with moistened eyes. Her husband Subal Sardar, the only earning member of her family was engaged in fishing and honey collection. He, along with his two fellow villagers were attacked by a man eater from behind as they were busy fishing on the riverside. Much later Gita was informed by other fishermen and they went for a search. Unfortunately, nobody found any traces of the bodies since then. Gita came forward to hold the responsibilities of her siblings and started working for people on farming lands at Rs.200 daily. She does it at an interval of 3 months and that too for only 15 days at a stretch. Her younger daughter and son stays in a hostel run by a local NGO. Her elder daughter, a class XII student stays with her. Presently their monthly earning varies from Rs.500 – 600.
Vill + P.O. Amlamethi, Gosaba, South 24 paraganas
It was a full moon thursday night when Sekhar Biswas went out to the forest river with his friends to catch crabs. Apart from catching crabs, honey collection and working on farming lands on a contract basis were the only earning avenues for Sekhar. That night Sekhar was attacked by a tiger and his collar bone was ripped off his shoulder. Sekhar was still alive then and was taken to the hospital on a boat the next morning. But he didn’t survive due to profuse bleeding and shock. Lalita Biswas, his widow, and mother of three children were left with no choice but to start earning for her family from the very next day. She started fishing and working as a maid simultaneously. Her two daughters and a son are studying in Class 6, 4, and KG respectively in a school in Amlamethi. GECT has taken the responsibility of tuition fees for her two daughters. However, amidst all struggles and challenges, she manages to bring back Rs.500 – 600 every month to her home.
Vill – Bally, P.O – Bally Hatkhola, South 24 paraganas
Crab selling was the major source of Ansar Ali Sekh’s income to feed his family of 5 members that includes his wife, children, and widow mother. The income was not enough, so Ansar used to visit Halisahar frequently to find some local jobs. On a winter morning, Ansar, with few local villagers started to search for crabs in the river. En route, he was attacked by a tiger who did not give him any chance to escape as the forest was thickened by dense fog. Ansar’s friends tried hard to save him but Ansar didn’t survive eventually. His wife, Kohinur Sheikh was informed by the local police of his husband’s demise. After the incident, Kohinur’s sons discontinued their studies due to financial restraints. Raju, the eldest son, started driving a van rickshaw and took responsibility of his family. Later Raju got married and now earns approximately Rs.2000 per month to sustain his eight-member family. The younger son is training on tailoring and trying to earn for his family too. Presently Kohinur’s two daughters Monowara and Morjina are studying in class VIII and their tuition fees are paid by GECT.
Vill + P.O.- Bijoynagar, Gosaba South 24 Paraganas
Saddat Gazi, used to run his family by selling crabs just like any other villagers of Bijoynagar. On a sunny morning, he took a boat along with his partners and went deep inside the forest to catch crabs. He was suddenly attacked by a tiger from behind, while he was still on boat rowing and navigating directions. He couldn’t keep balance and fell on water where the tiger tried to grab him and kill him on spot. Saddat, being a brave heart fought till his last breath. He did cry for help from his fellow partners who quickly fled from the scene on sighting another tiger approaching towards them. Shahida was informed later about the incident. A group of villagers searched deep in the jungle for few days only to return barehanded. Shahida didn’t believe Saddat’s partners and tried to file a lawsuit against them. But her in-laws restricted her since they were incapable of managing heavy legal expenses. Her elder son and daughter had to discontinue their studies on financial grounds. On request to the Gram Panchayat, Shahida was offered a job in a local school for cooking mid-day meals, cleaning and dusting premises. These days, Shahida manages to earn Rs.1500 per month with which she runs her family and takes care of her son and daughter's education. GECT now funds her children's tuition fees.
Vill + P.O. Birajnagar, Gosaba, South 24 paraganas
Swapan Baidya used to earn through fishing and catching crabs. Occasionally he was accompanied by villagers for honey collection. It was his third visit with others when he penetrated deep in the forest for honey. With a huge roar and piercing scream, the villagers gathered around to find a tiger grabbing his neck and pulling him to the interiors of the jungle. Onsight of a group of people, the man-eater escaped, leaving Swapan gasping for breath on the spot. Swapan was alive for few moments but died eventually. Sabita Baidya, along with her two daughters and in laws, almost starved to death when she finally decided to shift to her parents. Initially, they supported Sabita and her family but later it became difficult for them to manage so many people. With no other options left, Sabita shifted to Kolkata and started working as a maid. Her daughters stayed with their grandparents and now they both study in Class VIII. Their survival depends entirely on the financial backup from her mother who sends a minimum amount every month. Presently, GECT takes care of her children's tuition fees.
Vill + P.O. Charghari, Lahiripure, P.S. – Mollakhali Costal, South 24 paraganas
It was a Wednesday when Narayan Mandal went off at 2.00am with his fellow villagers to catch crabs. Narayan was the only earning member of the family and crab selling was their only source of income. The next morning Narayan was attacked by a tiger in the forest and was killed eventually. After Narayan’s death, the family had to face severe financial constraints and Sushama took the responsibilities of her two children as she started working as a maid. Her elder daughter couldn’t continue her studies and left college in her 2nd year to get married. Sushama’s younger daughter is now studying in 1st year honours and undergoing a nursing training simultaneously.
Presently Sushama is struggling hard to earn Rs.600 – Rs.1000 only per month. She stays in Shantigachi and she needs to cross two rivers to reach Basanti after a 4 hours journey.
Vill + P.O. Shantigachi, Gosaba, South 24 paraganas
Subal Joddar, husband of Gitarani Joddar was the only earning member of the family. It was a summer afternoon when Subal went to the forest river to catch crabs. His only son Bhola who was 15 years old then, accompanied him for assistance. Subal was killed near the river by a sudden tiger attack. Luckily Bhola survived and returned to his mother with his father’s death news.
Later Bhola took care of his family and started earning by catching and selling crabs. He is 18 years old now and married. He has a younger brother, two kids, wife and mother to look after. One of his kids is attending school now. With such heavy responsibility Bhola is struggling to earn their daily bread and butter. Presently, GECT is providing ration to the family through ‘Ahaar Mela’ which lowers the burden to some extent.
Vill + P.O. Mitrabari, Gosaba, South 24 paraganas
The most popular belief in the area is that the mangrove forest is a sacred place of “Bonobibi”, the Goddess of forest and "Dakkhin Ray", the tiger is the guardian of Sundarbans. Hence tiger attacks are discerned as a ‘divine curse’ of Bonobibi who is displeased and denies protection from the tigers. Widows are soley held responsible for the unfortunate incidents and are rejected by their in-laws and relatives immediately after the death of their husbands. Hope and faith are thus lost.
The above stories are not imperative cases; they are the face of an eroding population who are struggling to clinch onto a straw of hope before facing the obvious extinction. Off record, there are hundreds of them, who are feeding their families based on various NGO helps, Corporate donations, Community support etc., and few of them are already routed to unknown places for prostitution. These instances are no fictions, rather these are live evidences widespread across Jharkhali, Pakhiralay, Amlamethi of Basanti blocks and Gosaba blocks of Sundarbans. With every passing day, these regions experience exploitation, humiliation and death. In such scenario, we are left with two options. One, putting a blind eye to the ‘not so popular issues’ and pushing an entire community to destruction in Sundarbans. Two, let all of us be empathetic and offer the minimum requirements for their survival so that the community can flourish yet again and lead a healthy life.