"They damage our crops, take our animals away"
When we visited Kemasan village, which is close to Panna Tiger Reserve, we realised that the village is sitting on a time bomb. It’s so close to the reserve that those working in farms always have to be on the guard all the itme. Despite taking many precautions, wild animals attack and kill their pets and cattle. The situation is so grave that even kids are not safe.
Two reporters, one bike and a 500-km ride across Bundelkhand. For Gaon Connection reporters Jigyasa Mishra and Pragya Bharti, these seven days were a mix of fun, adventure, learning and some serious journalism. They visited many villages and tried to understand life from women's perspective. This journey was about understanding their lives, struggles, hopes and aspirations.
After visiting Chota Lokharia, Bada Lokharia, Pendra, Majhgava and Satna, we reached Kemasan village in Panna. The village is just 15 kms from the Panna Tiger Reserve. People here face different kind of issues, issues that swing between their lives and death.
It started pouring as soon as we reached the village. In a bid to save our lapel mikes and tripod, we started looking for a place to escape the downpour. Just then a woman, Sushila, called us out. We ran and went into her mud house and sat on her cot – the only furniture she possessed – which was merely a few inches about the ground.
Soon it stopped raining.
There was a calf tied close to the cot, which was getting restless. I looked at Sushila. She said, "I can't untie it even though I want to. These calves are prime targets of wild animals. You will find many cows in this village, but there are no calves. Wild animals take them away."
Anita, her neighbour, came and joined the conversation. She has a pet dog. I asked her why does she not train her dog to protect these animals and her crop?
"They don't spare the dogs either. The wild boars enter inside our fences and take our pets away. Just a few days a man was attacked by a wild boar when he was working in the field. He died on the spot. One of my relatives too died like this. A leopard attacked him when he went to the field to relieve himself. The family took a charpoy to the field to get him back. He survived to 2-3 days and then he died. My dog is safe only when I accompany him. I don't let him out on his own," Anita said.
Aarti, who lives in the village with her husband, mother-in law and two young kids, has a calf. She is very protective about it. "Its fine now, but the situation gets much worse during summer. The wild animals cross our fence, enter our homes and take these animals away. You will find many cows, but you won't find many calves. The leopards take them away. This is the reason why we tie our calf inside our home. When we go out, we lock it inside our house."
This conversation with these women came as a shock to me. I was under the impression that those who live near forest, their lives are full of thrill and adventure. I was so wrong. For these women living in Kemasan, basic survival is a constant struggle.