The Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Award this year was given to Biplab Hazra. The photographer managed to capture a heartbreaking image of a panicked elephant and her calf trying to escape a mob. The incident took place in Bankura district in West Bengal where the mob hurled tar balls and crackers at the defenseless animals. The picture titled ‘Hell is Here‘ shows the startling truth of the human elephant conflict in India.
Elephants are long range animals who require large habitats. But now the humans have begun encroaching the land of these majestic animals. The elephants eventually end up in these villages and the villagers resort to violence to rid the area of these big mammals.
The mammals see literal hell in areas of West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu. Our country has nearly 30,000 wild elephants but most of them are hunted down by poachers for their tusks or attacked by villagers. It is the gruesome reality to watch these amazing creatures being treated with such cruelty. According to locals attacking elephants with crackers is a regular affair in West Bengal.
The photographer recalled the day he clicked the picture and admitted he had never seen anything like this in the 14 years of being a photographer. Biplab Hazra said, “All my concentration was on clicking the photograph. But since that incident, I have not witnessed any another incident when an elephant caught fire.”
The Sanctuary Asia Organization was questioned as to why the award was given to something this gruesome. Sanctuary Asia Editor Anirudh Nair responded, “By awarding the photograph, we wanted to raise awareness on the violence routinely unleashed against elephants in West Bengal and in other parts of the country.” The organization has a good point, at the end of the day everything is not chirpy and happy. Life is hell for a lot of animals in the world and mostly because of us. It’s time we stopped praising the good and instead highlight the pain to make a difference.”
The Sanctuary Asia organization put out a statement that read, “The ignorance and bloodlust of mobs that attack herds for fun is compounded by the plight of those that who actually suffer damage to land, life and property by wandering elephants and the utter indifference of the Central and State Governments to recognise the crisis that is at hand.”
One important thing to understand is elephants are generally calm animals. But if the animal feels threatened by fire or loud sounds they get aggravated and go on a rampage causing even more damage.
In 2016, the Central Government launched vehicles called Airavat to forest teams. This was done in an attempt to keep elephants away from the villages but not much has changed.