I am a great admirer of the Gir lion-lovers for their one unique talent, as they are one group that can give run for the money to both MeToo and Stray dog lovers group in reaction speed. They are so quick that if you try uttering “Gir” or “Lion” in their presence, they would be angry even before you complete the word!
They are angry now as an old video with a nonchalant man sitting on a chair waving a chicken under the nose of a wild lioness has resurfaced. They find it to be demeaning harassment of a majestic beast.
Interestingly, it is not just love-blinded lion-lovers but also the honourable High Court of Gujarat applying its infinite wisdom on the matter feels the same, as it has also deduced thus and the man in the video is behind bars since May 2018.
To me, the video looks to be having a happy lioness snatching away the chicken and a happier man enjoying her company. As the only unhappy stakeholder in it is a chicken, if it is not about the chicken, I am left wondering about the jurisprudence used by the esteemed court in jailing a man.
I would like to look at this with utmost seriousness as there is a rural man suffering in jail, while what is treated by the court as his “crime” is likely to be the very essence of the “success” story of Gir.
Gir is not home just to the Asiatic lion, as land beyond the boundaries of the protected area reserved for the lion is also inhabited by humans. This revenue land is owned by people (just like you and I own our homes in the city), the only difference is they have no option but to have lions as their guests.
If we get honest, the pressure for obsessed lion-lovers has led to a situation that rural people living around Gir have to share the revenue land (that they rightfully own) with a dangerous and potentially human-killer large cat.
As the people of Gir region sharing the revenue land with lions have no real choice in the matter, I am tempted to ask the honourable court what it feels is the legal way in which a man and a beast can share the land.
For me, the man with the chicken is a true mascot of Gir, where locals have opted for the absolutely improbable option of co-existing with a killer-cat on friendly terms.
Truth is, Gir has worked because both the cat and the man have changed their way of life by becoming reasonably comfortable with each other over the years. How the man is treating the lioness is a wonderful depiction of a unique behavioural evolution.
If, by some absolute miracle, this insanity of celebrating man-cat co-existence continues for next couple of thousand years successfully, this man can end up being recognised as a father of a new cat species Panthera Leo Domesticus. Like many other places on Earth, Gir can have a smaller feline roaming to streets born from this gene pool.
So, in the light of natural evolution in action, judging a man’s attempt to get familiar with an animal that lives alongside him as a crime by those sitting hundreds of kilometres away from the ground reality and imprisoning the man for it makes little sense.
While the chicken-waving man provides a possible option of how lion and man can co-exist, there is a bigger and more practical truth that lion-lovers have forced the forest department to become blind to, and that is insanity of having lions roaming around in areas with human populations.
The entire idea of celebration of man-lion co-existence in Gir is an absurdly dangerous illusion that will have only one and completely disastrous outcome. Gir is surely heading for man-animal conflict that will lead to causalities on both sides.
Even though the chicken-waving men of Gir have managed to broker peace with the lion, let us not forget that it is a wildcat that can squash human skull with a single blow. So, the idea of living with it is best left to poems and dramas but not real life.
Gir needs a policy re-visitation by the forest department and a jurisprudence re-visitation by honourable High Court. Both need to set aside the public-sentiments and get real about the fact that a lion can and will kill humans.
Lion belongs to the forest and revenue land belongs to men. A management of both based on reality would be finding a best way to keep them apart instead of imagining that they can live peacefully together.
And, if authorities insist on trying this imaginary idea, they need to explain why a man has lost his freedom while trying to make this crazy experiment a success by risking his life.