Pathetic life of “tiger-widows”


By Alam Shams

DHAKA, Jan 7, 2018 (BSS) – Sonamoni, a well-known face in the Sundarban areas, was leading a happy life with her husband and the children. But darkness fell in their life as her husband who used to work in the world’s largest mangrove forest was killed in a tiger attack.

Due to death of the husband, Sonamoni’s mother-in-law chased her away from the house. Later the younger brother of her husband married Sonamoni. But her second husband was also killed in a tiger attack. Since then, she was passing days with the title of “ill-omened” and “husband-eater”.

Buli Dashi is another widow whose husband Arun Mandal got killed by a tiger when he went to catch fish in a river near the Sundarbans. For this, her mother-in-law used to torture her regularly. At one stage, the mother-in- law drove away her from the house blaming her as the “husband eater”.

Buli Dashi said like her there’re many women who were chased away after their husbands being killed in tiger attacks. “The younger brother of my husband was also killed in a tiger attack and subsequently his wife Dipali was driven away to her father’s home,” she said.

This planet is filled with diversified culture, while its people pose different thoughts, beliefs and spirits. Beyond the culture and intuition, superstition exists in different regions and our country is not an exception to it. The area adjacent to the Sundarbans is plugged with different superstitions due to lack of modernism, religious teachings and education.

A number of non-government organisations like Anirban, Durjoy, ‘Jagrata Bagh Bidhaba’ and Leaders are working for social dignity and rehabilitation of the “tiger-widows” living in surrounding areas of the Sundarbans.

These organisations are saying that though they’re working with the widows, their condition is improving very slowly.

According to the Leaders, over 500 forest workers were killed in tiger attacks from 2001 to 2011.

Though no death from tiger attack was reported from 2012 to 2016, three people were killed and another was injured in tiger attacks in 2017.

Mohan Kumar Mandal, an official of the Leaders, said nearly 1,500 “tiger- widows” are now living in the areas adjacent to the Sundarbans.

In the government account, the number of deaths from the tiger attacks is very less. The organizations working with the Sundarbans said the reason for it is that many of those who go to the world’s largest mangrove forest for collecting honey or catching fish don’t follow the government rules.

The deaths of those who enter the Sundarbans by using others’ passes are not reported in the government account.

Pijush Baulia Pintu, a Sundarbans expert, said the forest workers venerate of “Bano Bibi” before entering the Sundarbans. “Beyond this, there are many superstitions among them. These include if any male goes to the Sundarbans, her wife is barred from talking to any man and combing hair. Even she is not allowed to use oil in her body,” he said.

He, however, said such superstitions have reduced to a great extent thanks to spearheading different awareness campaigns. But many people still abide by these superstitions.

Pintu further said there is a government rule for providing Tk one lakh if anybody is killed in a tiger attack, while the amount is Tk 50,000 in the case of injury. But those who go to the forests by taking passes of others don’t get these government benefits.

Chairman of Munshiganj Union Parishad Md Abul Kashem Moral said the condition of the “tiger-widows” has changed to a some extent.

He said: “The literacy rate in our area was very less. Earlier, if any man was attacked by a tiger, her wife was driven away from the father-in-law’s house mandatorily after putting blame on her.”

Moral, however, acknowledged that the situation has changed to a great extent and such incidents are no more heard now.