Nobody enquires about ‘tiger-widows’

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DHAKA, Sept 4, 2020 (BSS) – The women who lost their husbands in the attack of tigers at the villages adjacent to the Sundarbans are known as “Bagh Bidhoba” (tiger-widows). Due to superstition, these women are considered as “opoya” (ill-omened). For this, they have to spend lonely life at a house.

There are 750 tiger-widows in Khulna’s Koyra upazila, while the number of such women in Shyamnagar upazila in Satkhira is 1,165. Though many tiger-widows live in Mongla, Morelganj and Sharankhola upazilas of Bagerhat and Dakop upazila in Khulna, there is no actual statistics in this regard. However, the condition of all of these women is very lamentable.

Abdul Gaffar, who hailed from Koyra upazila in Khulna, was killed in a tiger attack in 2008 while she went to the Sundarbans for catching fish. His wife Rokeya Khatun could not marry for second time due to becoming tiger-widow. Even she didn’t get the government’s widow allowance.

For this reason, Rokeya Khatun had to do work of day-labourers. Thousands of women of the Sundarbans areas are leading a miserable life. However, local public representatives as well as government and non-government officials said that the rate of becoming tiger-widow due to death of their husbands in the tiger attack has declined.

The plight of the women who became tiger-widows previously could not be mitigated. However, efforts are underway to rehabilitate them in various ways including imparting sewing training.

The women called as tiger-widows said after the death of their husbands, they have to make hard struggle to run their families and provide education to their children. They somehow manage their families by catching fish fingerlings in the rivers or canals, doing day-labour work or working in other houses.

Rokeya Begum said, since the death of her husband in tiger attack, she has been doing hard labour to groom up her son and daughter. “Sometimes I caught fish and sometimes did day-labour work to survive,” she said.

Ambia Khatun, another tiger-widow of Koyra, said her husband Amzad Hossain Sardar lost his life in a tiger attack when he went to the Sundarbans for catching fish. Since then, Ambia Khatun started a new battle, which is still going on.

According to the sources, those who earn livelihood by doing work in the forests, cannot go to the Sundarbans like previously. The number of tigers in the Sundarbans has reduced significantly. As a result, the number of deaths in tiger attacks has reduced which led to decreasing the rate of becoming tiger-widows.

Though it was delayed, some non-government organisations have come forward to changing the fortune of the tiger-widows, and one of them are Initiative for Coastal Development (ICD).

The ICD recently provided sewing machines and clothes to 40 tiger-widows after imparting training to them. Another non-government organisation is also working with the tiger-widows.

Founder of ICD Ashikuzzaman said they have taken initiatives from the thinking of doing something for the tiger-widows. “Initially we’ve started activities in Koyra, and as part of it, we’ve given sewing training along with sewing machines to them,” he said.

Forest Officer of the Sundarbans West Forest Department Md Bashir Al Mamun said there is a restriction on entering the people who earn livelihood from the forest.

“They’re not allowed to enter the forest. So, no information about the tiger attacks on the people is not gotten now,” he said.

The forest officer said various steps have been taken to increase the number of tigers and ensuing there unhindered movement. “Besides arrangements are being to control entering of the tourists into the Sundarbans,” he added.

Koyra Sadar Union Parishad Chairman Md Humayun Kabir said the work is underway to prepare a list of the tiger-widows, adding that they (tiger-widows) will be rehabilitated as per the list.