What makes monkeys the marauders? (written in August, 2011)

If an opinion poll is done on one of the video channels on what kind of animals they would like, choices of human beings would reflect their thinking. Probably monkeys would be the last, following lions or tigers. The topmost slot would probably be occupied by birds and animals, which are ‘beautiful, serene, calm, and domestic’. Same goes with the vegetation. People would not like thorny plants even if they have berries. But, then monkeys love to eat wild fruits, even if they are difficult to get. These are the choices, which pervade the inexorable march of human beings to ‘conquer’ the plant. And our choices get reflected in our lifestyles. But, then if you take a rights perspective, monkeys, crows, thorny plants, etc., also have a right to live on this planet.

But, then with human intervention, defined by a development paradigm, has led to deforestation. Reforestation and development focuses on growing eucalyptus, coffee, tea plantations and other bio-fuel species, which responds to requirements of carbon development mechanisms. Monkeys were not discussed in Kyoto Protocol, or at many of the international conventions. People love the grace of the tiger/lion, and somebody said it is on the top of the forest food chain. So, there are umpteen programmes to save them. When a particular video channel started a ‘talk campaign’, there were many financial donations as well. I am not sure if the same channel would get better TRP ratings, if they did the same with monkeys. I am doubly sure that there would not be any donations for rehabilitating monkeys, or crows for that matter.

What can the monkeys do, if they don’t get food in the forests? They would go where food is available. It would be agricultural fields, colonies, homes, temples, etc.. Now, we call them marauders, because they snatch food. They would not wait for your permission or largesse. They would know nothing about ‘proprietary’ rights on the food. It is nothing personal for them. They are hungry, they see the food, and they would want it.

People started taking precautions. They would cover their foods in zipped bags, or any other closed containers. Monkeys knowing that people do carry their food started attaching them in search of food. Then, people started saying monkeys have become violent. All along, from their sojourn in the jungles to concrete jungles, the monkeys search was for food. They never questioned human beings where their food came from, why they deforested their jungles, why their farms are fenced and electrified, why their apartments have iron grills and why only human beings have ‘proprietary’ rights over the planetary food. They are innocent, voice-less species.

On the other hand, people also would not have bothered, if they died due to starvation and hunger in the jungle. They would not have shown concern if the monkeys were waiting for ‘alms’ from some sympathetic person. But, people would get concerned and bothered only when the monkey attacks them for food. At that stage, monkey starts becoming bad, violent or marauders. This scenario is the same for many wild species, including cheetah, elephants, etc. Like sparrows, or some ‘saintly’ birds and animals, not every specie has the courage or wherewithal to enter the precincts of human beings and challenge them. Cheetah is single. Human beings can kill it easily. It is not easy to handle a organised group like monkeys. Ofcourse, in many places, pesticides are applied to kill all ‘wild’ species which raid the food stores of human beings, from ants, foxes and wild boars. But, in India, monkeys are not killed because of religious beliefs. That is the only solace.

Apply this situation to the human society, a jungle of attitudes and another kind of life. Apply this to Indian governance, supported by ‘proprietary’ thinking of ‘haves’. The situation of ‘have-nots’ is akin to any of the wild species, who are denied their living, by government policies. They are not even allowed to have their own growth, with their resources being usurped by fellow human beings who are on the upper echelons. Their choices are accepted and their life is disrupted.

The message I am trying to bring here on this blog is that monkeys do commit violence. But it is not their choice. They would love their environment, if that is not disturbed. Elephants would not run down the ‘human’ streets, if their habitat is not disturbed. Violence is not always the choice of species, which become violent. Violence is induced because of larger environmental and socio-economic changes, which are unjust and inequitous.

This I am posting this in the context of discussions on recent political and social developments in Andhra Pradesh, and India. You are free to draw your inferences.

The analogy is general, and not aimed at categorising any section of human beings as some ‘wild species’. I have chosen monkeys because of the suitability; principal factor being the Indian belief that monkeys should not be killed. That is, how do we address the problem of injustice, without taking the extreme step?


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