Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Stigma of Tiger Attack: Study of Tiger-Widows from Sundarban Delta, IndiaFNx01

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Stigma of Tiger Attack: Study of Tiger-Widows from Sundarban Delta, IndiaFNx01

Article excerpt

Byline: Arabinda. Chowdhury, Arabinda. Brahma, Ranajit. Mondal, Mrinal. Biswas

Aims: Human-tiger conflict (HTC) is a serious public health issue in Sundarban Reserve Forest, India. HTC is a continued concern for significant mortality and morbidity of both human and tiger population. This study examined 49 widows, whose husbands were killed by tigers, in order to explore the cultural stigma related with tiger-killing and consequent discrimination and social rejection. Different psychosocial aspects of community stigma associated with tiger-killings is discussed in the context of local culture. Methods: A mix of both quantitative and qualitative methods was used in this ethnographic study in two mouzas of Sundarban adjacent to Reserve Forest, involving (1) Village Survey for Tiger-widows, (2) In-depth interview of the widows, (3) Focus Group discussions, (4) Participatory mapping and (5) Stigma assessment by using a 28 item stigma scale especially devised for this research. For comparison of stigma-burden snake-bite widows and normal widows were taken from the same community. Results: Tiger-widows showed significantly higher stigma scores on all the clusters (fear, negative feelings, disclosure, discrimination, community attitudes, and spiritual dimension) than from both normal and snake-bite widows. They also showed higher total stigma score (65.9 [+ or -] 9.8) than normal widows (35.8 [+ or -] 8.0) and snake-bite widows (40.1 [+ or -] 7.1) and this difference was highly significant (P < 0.001). IDIs and FGDs helped to unfold the cultural construct of stigma related to tiger-killing. This can be seen in how the tiger-widows' quality of life has been negatively impacted with a multitude of post-trauma psychological scars, deprivation, abuse and exploitation. Conclusions: The study proposes that administrative strategy for sustainable alternative income generation and conservation policy with integrated participatory forest management may save both human and tiger. A community ecocultural mental health programme addressing to eradicate the cultural stigma related with tiger attack, with environmental awareness may help to reduce the social miseries of the tiger-widows.

INTRODUCTION

Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is a serious global problem which is causing severe damage, loss of human life, property, and threatens the survival of many endangered species. [sup][1] In India, HWC is also posing a serious challenge. The incidence of human-tiger conflicts (HTCs) is alarming in India. A total of 822 cases of human casualties have been reported during the period of 1990-2009 from six states of India as follows: Rajasthan - 7; Orissa - 25; Uttarakhand - 51; Madhya Pradesh - 133; Uttar Pradesh - 161, and West Bengal - 445 in which male casualties were far higher (79.8%) than female casualties (20.2%). [sup][2] In the Gangetic delta of India, Sundarban mangrove forest (sharing both by India and Bangladesh) is well-known for HTC over the years. [sup][3] The nature of HTC in Sundarban is mainly due to overlapping of tiger and human space over the use of forest and river resources, which is a very common issue of HWC around reserve parks. [sup][4] This paper attempts to highlight some of the damaging impact of HTC in the Indian Sundarban, in the context of local cultural landscape, viz., the cultural stigma related with tiger-killings and its impact on the surviving widows.

Tiger and Sundarban are almost synonymous [sup][5] and this landscape has a long sociopolitical history of HTCs. [sup][6] Tiger attack in the communities around Sundarban Reserve Forest (SRF) and also during forest exploration is a constant threat. [sup][7] A significant proportion of the population from the fringe villages of Sundarban depends on the forest resources and during their livelihood activities inside the forest they become the victim of tiger attacks. Human-animal conflicts, especially tiger-human encounter are a regular event in Sundarban, and every year about 40 people are attacked by tigers. …

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