Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mrigathipathyam

Translation from Malayalam by Patric Edward (circa 1999)

“I deny the charges,” Ranger Mariaputham replied to the Enquiry Commission’s query. “It is true, the tiger did eat DFO Damodaran Nair, but I was not responsible for it.”

“Weren’t you there when it happened?” Asked the one-man commission.

“Yes.”

“Did you not have your gun with you?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Was the gun loaded?”

“Yes, it was.”

“Then why did you not shoot?”

“Sir, The DFO is a human being. If I shoot him, I will be charged with homicide. He also happens to be my supervisor.”

After a seconds silence, in an apologetic tone the commission spoke. “That was not what I meant. The tiger, the one that attacked and ate DFO Nair, why did you not shoot it? Why did you not save your supervisors life?”

“Sir, I am a witness to the incident. What you just described, that is not how it happened. The tiger did not attack the DFO; it was the DFO who attacked the tiger. The tiger’s activities were only what any other living being will do for its self-defense. The tiger was acting within reason. Therefore my conscience did not permit me to shoot the tiger.”

“Was there any reason for you to dislike DFO Nair?”

“No,” Mariarputham replied. “As a supervisor he was smart. He cared about those who worked under him. Everyone in the Range had only good things to say about him. He was kind to other human beings.”

“Can you recollect any instance in which he was not nice to you?”

“Almost none.”

“In that case was it not your responsibility to save him from the tiger?”

“Sir, if you reason like that, that might be right; but look at it from the tiger’s side. The forest is its habitat. The tiger, which the ‘land dwelling DFO’ fired at, had caused no harm to humans. Luckily for the tiger, the shot missed the target and hit the tiger on its feet. In self-defense the tiger attacked at the DFO. The DFO lost the duel that followed. It is the habit of tigers to eat their victims. In keeping with that, the tiger ate the DFO. Besides, as a Ranger, my responsibility is the well being of all plants and animals in the forest. How can I then kill the tiger? Especially since, all it did, was to protect itself?”

“So what did you do?”

“I watched. When the tiger dragged the DFO’s body away, I took his gun and returned to the forest bungalow.”

Instead of the DFO, what if the provocation was from the tiger’s side? What would you have done then?

“Shot the tiger”

“Have you ever fired at any animals?”

“Just once. It was at an elephant that went berserk. The Collector had ordered the shooting.”

“At that time, did you try to find if the elephant had caused the provocation?”

“No, there was not need for it. If the Collector orders, any animal can be killed. If there is an order from the High Court, any human can be put to death. Only by hanging though. When I got, the written instruction from the Collector, I shot and killed the above mentioned elephant.”

“While trying to escape from the tiger did the DFO ask you to shoot the tiger?”

“Yes he did. I reminded him that the law does not permit me to shoot, that is, without the order from the Collector.”

“The Commission understands, that you were trying to follow, the law to the letter.” “Do you assign the same value, to the life of the tiger and the DFO?”

“No Sir. In the wild, the tiger’s life and on land the DFO’s life is valued more.”

“Remember the DFO is a land dweller, who rules over the forest. You too do the same.”

“Sir, describing us as the land rulers representatives to the forest might be more appropriate. In olden days, the kings were the rulers of the land, and in the forest, the lion was the king. In reality even the humans who lived in the forest did not accept the land ruler’s authority. Is it then right to insist that the tiger should and be willing to die for it? If the tiger comes to land we have the right to kill it. The DFO’s shooting of the tiger for no rhyme or reason, took place in the forest.”

“Are you trying to argue that the Tiger eating the DFO was in its self-defense? And because of that, that the tiger is innocent!”

“It is not just that, Sir. If to save the DFO, I had tried to shoot the tiger, I would have been doing an injustice to all animals. Forgetting my duty to my fellow living beings I would have surrendered myself to sectarian thinking. If that line of thinking were to continue I would in the cause of my fellow humans take up arms against other animals too. Even amongst humans, as an Indian I would inflict the same injustice on people of other countries. As an Indian, being a Malayali, the injustice will have to be continued against people of other states. Then as a person from Thiruvithankoor I will continue to perpetuate the same kind of injustice against people of Kochi and Malabar. Even in Thiruvithankoor as a member of the Nadar caste I will continue the cycle against members of other castes. Ignoring justice in every step of my sectarian thinking - for my village, then to my relatives, then to my family and finally to myself. The only way I could avoid sectarian notions from dominating my thinking was by showing justice to the animals. In fact, the duel between the DFO and the tiger was an opportunity for me to test my conviction.”

“If that was your thinking why did you not try to turn back the DFO?”

“Sir, I did try to do that, but the DFO did not pay heed to it.”

“What did he say?”

The DFO said, “The Tiger is an animal that eats other animals, so killing the tiger is for the protection of other animals. Besides, the king of the forest is not the lion; it is the forest minister.”

“In some sense isn’t that true?” The Commission retorted

“No. The forest belongs to the animals. Even the people living in the forest, the Vedars, are minorities. The animals of the forest have the right to kill anybody who goes into the forest and tries to kill them. Likewise land dwellers have the right to kill any animal that comes to land and tries to kill humans. To use a comparison, The Forest Minister’s role is similar to the British Colonial Secretary’s. He gets his authority from the people.”

“Are you advocating self-determination and self-rule for animals?”

“Sir, I spend my spare time reading history and politics. In my understanding, self-rule is the right to choose whatever tradition dictates. That is, the tradition of the Lion being their king. Not democracy, not human rule either. For example, when self-determination came to Africa, the people there choose Idi Amin. Animals will choose what suits them. But, it never will be the forest minister elected by humans. The same goes for human laws too.”

“Can the Commission arrive at a conclusion that the laws of the Forest Department are incompatible with your conscious?”

“Nothing wrong with that; but will that be a basis to dismiss me from my job?”

“It may be, it may not be. Whatever is the case, before this sitting is over, the Commission will like to know if you have any witnesses to testify for you? If so, should they be questioned?”

“Sir, there is a witness.”

“If you can get him here soon, this investigation can be wrapped up today itself. Is he around?”

“Yes, outside, waiting in the shade.”

“Ok, who is it?”

“The chief accused - the tiger that ate the DFO. Shall I call him sir?”



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2 comments:

  1. great effort...please put all the writing of M P Narayana pillai in this blog

    ReplyDelete