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Dwelling on Morichjhanpi: When Tigers Became 'Citizens', Refugees 'Tiger-Food'

In 1978, several hundred Bengali refugees in Morichjhanpi, one of the northern-most forested islands of the Sundarbans, were brutally evicted by the authorities for violating the Forest Acts. This paper looks at how the memory of Morichjhanpi was evoked by the islanders to reveal their resentment about the unequal distribution of resources between them and the Royal Bengal tigers of the Sundarbans reserve forest. The government's primacy on ecology and its use of force in Morichjhanpi was seen by the Sundarbans islanders as a betrayal not only of refugees and of the poor and marginalised in general, but also of Bengali backward caste identity. At the same time, the reasons leading to the Morichjhanpi massacre have to be understood in relation to the long history which led to the partition of Bengal and the intricacies of caste, class and communal differences.

Annu Jalais
Economic and Political Weekly