Year : 2015 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 105-118
Making and Unmaking the Endangered in India (1880-Present): Understanding Animal-Criminal Processes
Varun Sharma, Neera Agnimitra
Delhi School of Social Work, University of Delhi, Delhi, India
Delhi School of Social Work, University of Delhi, Delhi
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|Date of Web Publication||20-Jul-2015|
| Abstract|| |
The concerns of the present paper emerge from the single basic question of whether the available histories of the tiger are comprehensive enough to enable an understanding of how this nodular species comprises/contests the power dynamics of the present. Starting with this basic premise, this paper retells a series of events which go to clarify that a nuanced understanding of the manner in which a species serves certain political purposes is not possible by tracking the animal alone. A discourse on endangerment has beginnings in the body and being of species that are remarkably cut off from the tiger-the elephant, birds, and the rhino (and man if we might add)-and develops with serious implications for power, resource appropriation, and criminality, over a period of time, before more directly recruiting the tiger itself. If we can refer to this as the intermittent making and unmaking of the endangered, it is by turning to the enunciations of Michel Foucault that we try to canvas a series of events that can be described as animal-criminal processes. The role of such processes in the construction of endangerment, the structuring of space, and shared ideas of man-animal relations is further discussed in this paper.
Keywords: endangered, hunting, animal-criminal, science, Foucault, birds, elephant, rhino, tiger, Bombay Natural History Society, British India, India
|How to cite this article:|
Sharma V, Agnimitra N. Making and Unmaking the Endangered in India (1880-Present): Understanding Animal-Criminal Processes. Conservat Soc 2015;13:105-18
| Introduction: Reconsidering the Endangered|| |
It seems that we might stand to gain if we problematised the concept of endangerment, from the point of view of man-animal relations, as opposed to celebrating it as the product of our scientific profundity. In trying to understand the social and political construction of the endangered from around the turn of the nineteenth century in British India, we resist the temptation to unpack a colonial past from the point of view of racial or class differences alone. Where scholars such as MacKenzie (1989), Rangarajan (1996, 2001), and Saikia (2011) have already commented on our faunal pasts, we make an attempt to approach select species-the elephant, birds, the rhino, and the tiger-in the brief space of this article as "local centers" of power-knowledge (Foucault 2008: 98). It is in recognising the interminable link between knowledge and power (Foucault 1979, 1980, 2008) that we can afford to remember how the bloodletting of sportsmen in our colonial past was connected with naturalist understandings, and thus has relevance for the manner in which the present-day discourse of endangerment has been moulded out of it.
Unfortunately sport-hunting has not been located seriously enough in the knowledge configurations of which it was a part, which are rarely static in themselves. There could be a growing interest in a given species of the wild, and then a sudden silence or plaintive departure in a new direction. Considering this, a case could be made for a wildlife history in terms of what Foucault (2008: 99) describes as the "matrices of transformations". Foucault (2008: 99), albeit from a different context notes that, "the nineteenth-century grouping made up of the father, the mother, the educator, and the doctor, around the child and his sex was subjected to constant modifications, continual shifts". 1 Though Foucault explains this with an overwhelming concern for a child's sexuality, one finds it to be somewhat applicable to denizens of the wild who had/have to be spoken for. Administrators, sportsmen, natives, naturalists, and later day scientists comprise the late nineteenth and twentieth century grouping around animals of the wild, which this paper demonstrates is marked by its own share of curious inversions. One of the pressing concerns of this paper remains: What do such ironies hold for notions such as the 'progress of science'?
In addition we find that even nuanced accounts on the operations of colonial science, such as those offered in Science in the service of empire by Gascoigne (1998) and Nature's government by Drayton (2000), tend towards analyses that "look [...] outward" from the metropolis (Chaplin 2003: 131). If "true knowledge of British colonization [needs] to take the periphery as seriously as the centre", as Chaplin asserts, we hope this paper will serve its part in addressing the apparent shortfall in literature with a focus on wildlife. Through recourse to several other Foucauldian concepts, this paper provides a reading of events that reveal the manner in which the person of the 'criminal' figures in the making and unmaking of the 'endangered' from one species to another, as part of what we refer to as animal-criminal processes. Such processes are explicated within a broader historiography in which Cohn (2004) mildly serves to situate our initial concerns, the theses of Sivaramakrishnan (1995) and Philip (2004) help us to maintain the tension between the workings of racial science and colonial discourses of nature, the assertions of Roy (1998) lead us over aspects of implied criminality in the colony, and the works of Lewis (2005) and Greenough (2011), by speaking for more contemporaneous developments in respect of the tiger, help us to establish our own argument for a more protracted period of time. We operate within the meta-narrative of the colonial and postcolonial state, believing this to be the appropriate scale for any history on endangerment worth its name. In the process, we raise questions on some very basic assumptions that dot the understanding of our faunal pasts, which are brought up more clearly in the conclusion.
| Elephants: The 'Natural Death' of A Technology|| |
The elephant makes a good starting point. On the basis of the number of elephants that were captured in colonial India and the avid efforts to control this single species, scholars have contended that the elephant was a "critical resource" (Rangarajan 2001; Nongbri 2003). Nevertheless, such accounts fail to ascertain the equally critical role this species might have played in the facilitation of a discourse on endangerment into more recent times, even if by failing to retain the primacy it once did. Nongbri (2003: 3198) rightly alleges in her study restricted to the later parts of the nineteenth century that the claims of different social groups over the elephant in Assam were both reflective of the concerns of the "time and the age as well as strangely resembling present-day ecological concerns." However, this journey of 'ecological concerns' into more recent times, was complicated by forebodings over other species that almost every other historical account on the elephant ignores, amounting to a generalisation in its own turn. By restricting ourselves to aspects of hunting and utilitarianism, we are equally prone to losing the very connect that Nongbri herself alleges between past and present politics, especially when formal sport-hunting was banned in independent India, and the scientific discourse of protection began to bend away from state utilitarianism by concentrating on species such as birds and the rhino, as we see later.
Perhaps, a deliberation on certain non-economic aspects of power, in following Foucault (1980: 142), can address such difficulties, as much as the persistence of knowledge-power through different species. 2
There is little doubt that the Elephant Preservation Acts of 1873 and 1879 had an important role to play in maintaining elephants in desired numbers for economic operations. What is interesting though is how Stebbing (1923: 118), the Inspector General of Forests, excitedly argued that if it were not for provincial legislations such as those enacted in parts of the Malabar and the Madras Presidency, the "elephant would have been exterminated". Such fears of pending extermination were founded on the non-descript presence of people killing it for a "livelihood" in what was believed to be a "comparatively narrow range of country". 3 Though such worries could have been spurred by the many services the elephant offered for an array of administrative pursuits, one can genuinely enquire if the story was entirely economic. Elements of power had their own manifestations. Casserly (1913) speaks most plainly of how the knowledges gained about the forestways from elephant back proved vital from the point of view of governance, or more properly said, the domination of subject peoples. Casserly's account reaches a literal crescendo when the knowledge of forestways thus gained in Buxa, are found to be aiding the full-blooded pursuit of a criminal. Where the "man-hunt" in the description of this relentless army officer summed up to an excitement far greater than the chase of wild animals, 4 we can afford to remember how the emperor Akbar was praised by his biographer for using the hunt or shikar as a means of "gathering intelligence about the state of the realm" (Rangarajan 2001: 12).
The elephant did indeed play an important role in the kingly hunts of a pre-colonial era according to Ali (1927) which, in hindsight, were not only about the slaughter of game animals but also the surveillance of human counterparts. In the time to come, the selfsame landscape that the monarchs of a time might have once surveyed came to be compassed by the innumerable 'sportsmen-naturalists' of colonial India-Stebbing (1920) being one by his own decree-who also generated prolific accounts of the terrains and inhabitants that witnessed their ceaseless hunting exploits (that of man and animal alike). Yet such discerning sportsmen of the time did not want to get so close to the bewildering reality sprawled out before them; in the words of Cohn (2004: 10) in Colonialism and its forms of knowledge, they might have "felt most comfortable surveying India from above and at a distance-from a horse, an elephant, a boat, a carriage or a train". Perhaps, this is where we can safely picture the elephant standing in a changing polity. But would the elephant on account of all such changes be able to ensconce itself forever in what Cohn (2004) efficaciously describes as the "technologies of rule" or more properly the "surveillance modality" of knowledge-power in colonial India?
This requires some careful consideration. Rawat (1992) and Nongbri (2003) provide two nuanced but varied arguments. Rawat (1992: 11) alleges that even though the elephant remained important from the point of view of transport and communication, the liquidation of Indian states through the Doctrine of Lapse reduced its importance for military purposes. Nongbri (2003), on the other hand, nearly sketches a straight line by connecting the person of Sir Samuel Baker in late nineteenth century with the developments of the early part of the 1940s. Through different sources Nongbri (2003: 3, 190) cites that Baker was "the greatest authority on elephants in the nineteenth century", while General Cotton who suppressed the mutiny of 1857 in Peshawar is quoted at some length for the importance he associated with the elephant-which Nongbri believes also sustained into later colonial periods (almost like an unwavering tenor) to "aid the frontier expansion policy". The postulations of the eminent elephant conservationist Sukumar (1989), needless to state, are added to this aggregation of facts by Nongbri for having affirmed that the elephant was a "prized possession" during the Second World War among the British and the Japanese in the battle for Burma. Though we see a little later that Sukumar's proposition in no way makes for a hypothetical generality that can be cast over the entire colonial/postcolonial state, it is in keeping with the present chronology that it becomes interesting to notice how Nongbri grants convenient oversight to what Baker (1889: 52-53) himself declared as the "uncertainty of character" of the Indian elephant in Wild beasts and their ways. This in Baker's mind had, long before the coming of us historians, rendered the animal "useless for military purposes". Likewise, the act of invocating General Cotton sits uneasily against the account of Major General Roberts (1897: 513) where in speaking of his yesteryears he goes on record to state that the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 had by itself instigated a move away from fortifications and the accompanying use of elephants in favour of modern communications, since this allowed the colonial state to "rapidly [concentrate] troops on any threatened point".
Likewise, Rawat's (1992) postulation that the elephant remained important for transport and communication also needs to be reconsidered a little more carefully. For instance, Morris (1927: 723) writing from the Nilgiris speaks of an increased "respect" for his "Ford car" when it held him in good stead over some of the roughest terrains in the pursuit of "proscribed" rogue elephants. Even if we delay an explanation on the increasing presence of rogues in British India for the time being, one finds that the elephant which was a frequent ally of the shikar or even the man-hunt in colonial India was to get unsympathetically inverted on occasions into an object of the hunt within the changing technologies of rule. Knowles (1932) provides an interesting account in this regard. This sportsman's scrutinising gaze cannot fail to account for the presence "of dacoits who plunder in the plains below", and verily as part of a hunting episode abetted by nothing less than a "chauffer", a "relief party", and a "Ford car" in the Terai. Evidently, the tactics of surveillance, of which the person of the sportsman was invariably a part, were bound to be rearticulated in the face of technological advancements and new investigative modalities of which the motorcar was (only) one. It would be presumptuous to think that this did not affect the status of the elephant in any which way. Knowles' chances at a tiger are spoilt by the interference of nothing other than a 'rogue' elephant. Monteath's (1934: 56) concern during the mid-1930s in the Bombay presidency concerning the phenomena of "motoring poachers" makes it equally unimaginable that the administration remained elephant-bound when offenders themselves were resorting to vehicular transport. A sustained expression of the same is, perhaps, to be found in Hall's (1940: 563) admission of how he was "mad keen" to hunt down 'rogue' elephants in Assam-an opportunity previously obstructed by the stricter adherence to the Elephant Preservation Acts of the 1870s. Hall's keenness could be served only by a car; modern communications had "ousted the elephant from favour" in his opinion. The elephant may have been a subject of avid contestations on account of the varied economic purposes it served, but its continued usefulness in the strategies of power and surveillance (of which sport-hunting was undoubtedly one) over a longer period of time merits closer examination in the face of regional variations.
It is indeed difficult to believe that the elephant enjoyed anything like a sustained or continued importance through the colonial period. This can be analysed in a different way. While Milroy (1923: 810) gives a detailed description of how elephant-catching operations in Assam set the animals on a "road to domesticity and usefulness", one is nearly reminded of Foucault's exposition of "disciplinary coercion" that followed almost half a century later. Here Foucault (1979: 138) attempts to describe the working of disciplinary power in the terminology of "docility-utility", such that it "increases the forces of the body (in economic terms of utility) and diminishes these same forces (in political terms of obedience)". Between usefulness and servitude, a senior forester such as Champion passed an interesting verdict on the animal. Known for his early skills with the camera, Champion (1927: 127) ruefully mentioned how the elephants in the United Provinces were suffering on account of "in-breeding as a result of segregation from larger herds". Champion ironically attributed the cause of this segregation to "much of the Nepal elephant country" which had been "opened up for cultivation", while quizzically believing that a "new breed" coming from nowhere else but Nepal(!) would "infuse blood into what seems a dying race". Apart from this ambivalence a reader must also suffer a silence about what the intersecting roads and railway lines were doing to the elephant in British India. Quite simply, the implication in Champion's words was that this "segregation" on account of developments such as tea and coffee plantations, canals, agriculture, dams, mining, and modern communications, could not be as plainly obstructed even though the roving propensities of the elephant were liable to creating significant areas of conflict. On the other hand if something could be hauled up all the more easily-and this is important-then it was the unnamed groups which had taken up to killing elephants for a "livelihood" in the forests, as likened by Stebbing (1923). There is no guarantee though if such livelihoods were directly connected to the segregation being alleged by Champion. However, demands over livelihoods are explicable where foresters were actively seeking to transform native tribes into "loyal servants" (Ribbentrop 1900) of a department that was vigorously working the forests with the aid of what Milroy (1923) had described elsewhere as domestic and useful elephants. The elephant might have surely held value in terms of such utilitarianism, but its roving propensities did not make for a docile Nature (with a capital N), and the animal's usefulness in terms of producing obedient and condoning subjects through surveillance is something we have already brought up for dispute.
Thus, in the arduous space of time (as against the immediate space of a forest) we further get to notice a tangible shift of concerns from a ranging species such as the elephant, which continues to be felled on the (railway) tracks of progress in independent India with quite some nonchalance, to a species such as the tiger that brings more of the archetypal 'livelihoods' into question while affecting a reconciliation with the continued appropriation of our jungle country. We persist with this central concern with an eye on the workings of science, especially in terms of the growing links between ideas of implied criminality and local livelihoods. Though present-day society is visited with vehement debates like 'tigers versus tribals' and 'development versus nature', Foucault (2008: 102) forewarns about how "there can exist different and even contradictory discourses within the same strategy" of power.
A discussion on the 'natural death' of elephants through the 1920s and 1930s speaks audibly of the subtle shift of concerns from one species of the wild to another, while also revealing early-on that opposing viewpoints could serve a single strategy. Popular journals of the period reveal that it was certainly not uncommon of sportsmen and naturalists at the time to mull over the difficulty of chancing upon the carcass of an elephant that had died, so to say, 'naturally' of old age or at the hands of another species of the wild such as a tiger. This gave wings to the imagination of some who attributed this mysterious phenomenon to the elephants having a 'secret burial ground' for themselves. More scientific explanations in-turn rubbished the former as cases of sheer romanticism, and sought to clarify how quickly carcasses were destroyed and consumed by 'natural agents' (again natural) to leave little or no trace in the evergreen forests for a passing sportsman to observe. Even Morris (1928: 794-795) and Champion (1929: 433-434) went back and forth on this in their respective contributions to the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society (JBNHS) established as early as 1883. And as late as the 1940s, the editors of the JBNHS (Prater et al. 1946: 397-398) were still eager to put on display some "rare photos" of elephants that had supposedly died a "natural death", despite which it was not an easy task to convince all readers or contributors to the journal. One can surely wonder if this did not at the same time 'naturalise' the death of the animal, to leave little space in the JBNHS for a more serious discussion on what the kind of "segregation" alleged by Champion (1927) was doing to the elephant corridors in British India. Interestingly, alongside this kind of greening of a species' death, the persecution began to shift to the elephant itself, which on occasions now became a "perfect terror" for the legendry L.L. Reade (1932: 674) shooting in the Khasi hills, or a "notorious man-killer" for Mustill (1938: 324) in Upper Burma. Such encounters with 'rogues' did not occur in a manner that was totally unaffected by the scale of khedda (also keddah) or elephant-catching operations. Declining demand for the species, particularly from Bihar, and a reduction of elephant-catching operations saw an administrator in Assam vouching for the importance of "elephant control measures" (Milroy 1934: 102). If stringent protection in the earlier years denied a sportsman a shot at the beast, then laxity in protection could produce rogues much to the delight of some others. Hall (1940: 563), whom we have already remembered for his frenzied desperation to hunt 'rogue' elephants in Assam, is found to be justifying his keenness in the following words: "with little or no organised Keddah catching operations and strict protection, wild elephants have so increased in numbers that in certain areas they are a menace to cultivators; and as a result have to be controlled".
There is some evidence, particularly in the pages of the JBNHS, which leads us to believe that the discourses of nature during the later colonial period become increasingly comfortable with the idea of 'rogue' elephants. We cannot delve into this in any greater detail here, but the famed naturalist Lieutenant Colonel Burton (1952: 399-400) much to the opposite of past practice is eventually seen valourising the "brave and willing aid" of a few members of the "simple" baiga tribe in putting an elephant to rest, that he regarded as the "most murderous rogue". In a display of what would be brazen insensitivity for a practicing naturalist by today's standards, Burton further added that the "reward of Rs. 200 seems somewhat niggardly for the destruction of such a beast as this". It is hard to say if such expressions remained local in their bearings or stretched beyond the local/regional/provincial through the available print media.
Notwithstanding, the frequently rehearsed claim that the elephant remained a "prized possession" till as late as the Second World War (Sukumar 1989) needs to be re-evaluated against such voices from deeper within the colony, particularly those which were nearly intending to lay a makeshift epitaph for the animal. It seems that prominent naturalists, even those in the south, were hardly immune to the declining importance of the elephant which also hurdled so much of the state's expansionism on account of its migratory nature. Phythian-Adams' (1952: 468) retaliatory words at the press protesting against the destruction of elephants amounted to something like: "As if they were in any danger of extinction!" (Emphasis in original). Such shunning of a species and that too at the hands of a noted sportsman-naturalist stands in startling contrast with Stebbing's (1923) earlier belief that it was the Elephant Preservation Acts of the 1870s that had resuscitated the animal from the brink of "extermination" from around the same geography. For all the concerns raised by Stebbing (1923), it takes little to imagine that the "range of country" was narrower than ever before.
Such developments in both the Assam and the Madras Presidency make it enormously difficult to think that the endangered is a fixed and coherent category through time, or across regions for that matter. When and where the elephant was failing to hold its own, we find, birds temporarily provided for a sweeter song that made grounds for the exercise of power over select types of livelihoods, the simultaneous passage of capital, and scientific ideas of nature that did not jar against the former.
| Birds: Being Unable to Master A 'Mystery' (and thus the 'Shikari')|| |
In comparison, the birds presented themselves for the cause of protection with the hope that they could be consciously 'segregated'-to use the very same term as plied by Champion (1927) with respect to the elephant-into those that were, or were not useful by virtue of being insectivorous. Our colonial administrators and the experts on the subject were gravely mistaken if they thought that this task of sifting birds would be an easy one. It remained to be painfully discovered that birds could be both useful and/or destructive. The ambivalence of wanting to protect useful birds while at the same time allowing for the killing of those that were harmful for agriculture and fruit plantations was manifest in the claims of some popular sportsmen cum naturalists of the time. The prevailing dichotomy was also preserved in the letter and spirit of The Wild Birds and Animals Act of 1912, which in contrast to the Elephant Preservation Acts of the 1870s had raised the 'birds' to a special mention (while subsuming the elephant into the more generic category of 'animals').
But one must direct their attention to the Central Provinces in order to properly understand the transitions of the time. 5 It is learnt that a concerned Commissioner in the Central Provinces was trying to draw-up two separate lists (List A and B) on the basis of differing criteria for the protection of select bird varieties (Laurie 1891). Their usefulness for agriculture and horticulture was one of the primary factors. Furthermore, the Commissioner was assisted by an expert, according to whom the "painted snipe" and "raptorial birds" like the hawks and kites were undeserving of the slightest protection. Amid the blurry lines separating the state administration and expert knowledges the only fault of such species was that they were not hunted; that which was not hunted was not meant to be protected. 6 It had been equally difficult for the sportsmen or naturalists to understand or monitor the phenomena of bird migration. Hence, it was conveniently upheld by the administration that "of course there is no necessity for protecting" migratory species in the Central Provinces (Laurie 1891: 97).
One finds that even half a century later, utilitarian segregations, sport-determined priorities, and limits to knowledge where migration was concerned, in varied permutations and combinations, did not in any way ease the cherished task of convicting 'forest crimes' with a view to protecting bird life. Ghorpade's (1955: 104) frustrations stand as a long-lasting testament of the same. It was frequently "impossible to prove the identity of the bird before the magistrate", Ghorpade once complained. A corpus of ornithological knowledge was getting entangled with the power to punish. If it was not fair to expect the judicial apparatus to familiarise itself with ornithological details to perform its functions, it was equally difficult to declare a uniform 'close season' or prohibitory period on the shooting of certain bird types on the basis of their breeding seasons. Millard (1908: 665-666) at the other end of a time scale reveals an early acknowledgement of how breeding seasons varied across topographies for the very same bird varieties, thus resulting in an unruly heterogeneity waiting to be managed by a uniform policy, act or regulation.
Nevertheless, all such inherent difficulties reveal by contrast that the more intense the efforts became to evolve a criterion for the protection of some varieties to the exclusion of others, the more trade in plumage started to emerge as a point of concern. Hexton (1891: 487) had been early to state that the "wholesale destruction" of birds in Sind[h] was "surmounted" by merely ensuring a "government monopoly" over the trade in "fur and feather". Alas, here were species that concerned the livelihoods of scores of tribes and nomadic communities, and the characterisation of plumage trade as a crime, among other projects of the state, paved the way for the future of a naturalist discourse that would be relatively free from encumbrances and embarrassing disagreements on what feathered species need or need not be protected, and likewise what 'forest crimes' ought or ought not to be convicted. More than simply serving the mechanisms of "docility-utility" (Foucault 1979), a thing we have pursued differently with the elephant, this is approximately where notions of criminality seem to get conjoined more firmly with the cause of wildlife protection. The category of the 'criminal tribe', as we explain, begins to gradually emerge as a salvo for science.
The inception of such (animal-criminal) processes can be located within the broader historiography where scholars such as Sivaramakrishnan (1995: 6) have previously established how the racial sciences and colonial discourses of nature were never separate. He argues that, "Where forest dwellers were being sorted into types", the criminal type being one, "the forests themselves were arranged in categories by dominant genera and species". The possibility of such intense interactions between colonial ethnologists and naturalists taking place around animals of the wild and just not plants and trees becomes perceivable from this. Similarly, in Civilizing natures, Philip (2004: 22-23) has made a definitive quest into how the colonial state "emphasised the importance of introducing 'primitive' and 'undisciplined' tribals to the ethic of wage labor, private property, and stable residence". Without any direct reference to wildlife though, Philip throws light on "the anthropological scheme of scientific hierarchies of mankind" which acquired a shrillness with the passing of the Criminal Tribes Act of 1872. Against this backdrop Philip further demonstrates how the projects of "Natural history, anthropology, and forestry" were linked with one another. Such historical strands verify the many uses the anthropologised person of a criminal might have had for the sportsmen-naturalists of the time, especially to overcome what Foucault (1981: 52) describes as the troubled occurrences or "chance events" of a discourse, 7 namely a protectionist discourse on the unruly and riotous birds.
For instance, P.T.L. Dodsworth (1911) as an established ornithologist nearly presented a version of nature that was not based on the estimated increase/decrease in the numbers of a species or even anything like the ecosystem services birds performed, but the prima facie availability of figures of plumage trade. The extent of plumage trade was such that banning it might not have dented the political-economy of the colonial state in any significant way. But at the same time the figures called into play were substantial enough to raise a public alarm. Arguments such as those of Dodsworth stretched beyond the tribes in the forests to engulf the traders in cities and even the women of high society who used plumage for the purposes of fashion. By providing exacting figures of seizures at the doorsteps of traders and merchants in different parts of the colony, Dodsworth cast the dye that plumage trade was a high profit industry. The "extent of slaughter" undertaken by natives was hastily connected to the net worth of India's export trade in plumage which Dodsworth (1911: 1108) valued at Rs. 1,551,831 for the period between 1895 to 1900. Dodsworth maintained a kinder attitude towards the sportsman.
Stebbing (1920) was even more blatant than Dodsworth in acquitting the person of the sportsman-who at the time was amassing knowledges of bird life in the logos of the 'western' man-and further adjudicated the local hunters as diabolical "butchers", "noxious individuals", and the "most inhuman class of slayers". Only the "hard-working ryot" was held in calculated sympathy alongside the insectivore birds (Stebbing 1920: 277). The ceaseless hope being that by culling down harmful bird species and allowing the insectivore varieties to thrive at the same time, the administration would be able to leech benefits from that 'symbiotic' relationship it was desperately trying to establish between man and animal. This was the essence of bird protection that was awaiting a rude shock in the time to come. Notwithstanding, at the time Stebbing's added insistence was that the local governments should take up the onerous task of listing the "contrivances" employed by the native hunters with a view to then using such lists (as against any knowledge of wild species per se) as the basis for administrative action against a generalised "class of slayers". Even though the present day science of tiger conservation remains uncannily enamoured by similar procedures-a deliberation which we delay to the concerned section on tigers-at the time of their inventing, such formulations would have surely eased the task of magistrates. Without rehearsing Ghorpade's concerns, the protectors of our wilds at such junctures were found to be acting in eerie concert with 'the anthropological scheme' of constructing the 'criminal tribes' in colonial India (Philip 2004); a programme that is known to have relied with equal intensity on hunting methods and practices of communities in order to typify them en masse as hereditary criminals, or "criminals by birth" as Nigam (1990) explains it to be.
On the basis of this, it does not seem superfluous to think that within a protectionist discourse the fluid, heterogeneous, complex, and flighty nature of birds needed a relatively rigid or fixed idea of the offenders from whom they had to be protected, which automatically the idea of a 'criminal' in soul, body, and mostly 'tribe' served rather well. Though Roy (1998: 54) submits the argument that thugge and notions of criminality in colonial India were "a trope for all that is uncontrollable", figures of crime provided a great degree of computability that aided agenda-setting in the case of the unpredictable birds. But indeed there were grave ambiguities in the construction of criminality in colonial India as Roy points out, and it was not uncommon for even a senior forester such as Monteath (1934: 46) to quip on occasions that the village hunters "had no inducement of profit worth considering". According to Monteath, the "ineffective" methods of the natives could hardly upset "the natural increase of a species". Whatever the confusion, in 1952 the category of 'criminal tribes' was abolished on account of a series of political processes that we cannot delve into for their own sake, but can only imagine how it must have compounded the ambiguities at hand.
It is quite admissible that with the destabilisation of the one half of criminality of the type that the Act of 1872 had previously conferred, the interrelated projection of certain groups as being innately criminal by 'nature', and the simultaneous construction of a 'nature' that consisted largely of birds that were being traded by such groups, started to become increasingly untenable. 8 The shaky status of 'criminal tribes' in independent India, seems to have left the spokespersons of the wilds with that unmentioned pondering-who is now to be held responsible for the decline of bird populations? This moment in discourse was to prove that the ability of a species to remain protected is dependent upon the degree to which it can implicate social groups within the changing relations of force. One wonders if it can be called an awkward turnaround but in the effort to declare Keoladeo Ghana in Bharatpur as a bird sanctuary through the working of the newly constituted Central Wildlife Board (CWB) in independent India, Ali (1953: 532) adjudged the "cultivator" or ryot as being the "great danger" to bird life, more than "over-shooting or even illicit netting". Reasons galore being provided by Ali, what remains important is that only a few decades ago the insectivore varieties were catalysing a discourse on bird protection and producing scientific data in terms of their benefits for agriculture, but with the ryot himself being put in the dock such limbs of a discourse began to get unceremoniously relegated. There was possibly another aspect: how easily could the sportsman (and his counterpart of the naturalist) implicate this emerging constituency of settled or sedentarised cultivators as against the wandering nomads. Nonetheless, if a charge against the cultivator could be admitted in political circles, its success to whatever degree possible rested on the fact that it was against the backdrop of a species that frequently took to the undivided skies, so as to not create half as much of a flutter as the free ranging elephant on a rapidly segregating earth. If only elephants could fly! But the animal was more obviously amounting to a rogue for some prominent naturalists at the time, as we have already seen.
The numerous studies that had made it impossible to overlook the phenomena of migration began to add a different dynamic to the prevailing vulnerability and readjustments in discourse. When the migratory instinct of birds revealed the existence or estimates of such a life form as an unavoidable "mystery", a fact Ali (1962) himself admitted to, with what surety could one pin their decrease on a social group. In addition, the clampdown on plumage trade, fortunately or unfortunately, went to deny the protectors of the wilds those valuable figures of crime. Figures of plumage trade to the nearest decimal, as displayed by Dodsworth (1911) were replaced by a host of approximations such as "conservatively estimated", "generous margin of error", "say, 2000 nests", "around 3 tons", "out of count", and "masses of other [birds]". This appears in less than a passage by even those who were best in the business (Ali 1953: 535). Such instances pose uneasy questions for assumptions regarding the progress of science, emphasising Foucault's (1980: 49-50) "methodical precaution" on the need to "reconstruct generative processes [...] without imposing on them a positivity or valorisation." The erosion of a concern about insectivore varieties, a host of approximations in place of clearly estimable figures of crime, and the hard-hitting reality of bird migration, all together had the curious effect of resurrecting the person of the sportsman in independent India. Ali (1953: 536) batted rather quixotically, as of a time before, for the protection of birds alongside the shooting privileges of the "sportsman of the right type". In such clumsy ways, sometimes even regressive, India awoke to Independence, while the birds scattered for all such reasons out of the protector's sights. In retrospect, it seems H. Littledale was the wisest of them all. He had ominously stated long before in 1886 that birds "exert their privilege of choice to an extent that often upsets the dogmatic naturalist."
| Rhinos: Lushais, Kukis, Boros, and The 'Natural History Point of View'|| |
Indeed, life "constantly escapes" the techniques devised to govern and administer it (Foucault 2008: 143), considering which we benefit by ascertaining the ascendance of the rhino. This animal, unlike the elephants and the birds, was of no practical significance from the economic point of view. Yet in following Foucault, power could find a remarkable avenue through this animal. The rhino, one discovers, had remained a sportsman's delight for long after the elephant and the birds had been pulled into the ambit of protectionist concerns and maintained therein in erratic ways. The Maharajah of Cooch Behar in his Diary (1908) reports that 207 of them were hunted over a period of 37 years ending in 1905. The Nepal Maharajah was not very far behind and busy protecting the rhino in certain blocks in order to offer them as a hunting delight to the Prince of Wales (Smith 1909). It is important to note that both the Rajas were largely referring to what is recognised today as the Indian rhinoceros or greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), and not so much the Asiatic two-horned rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) 9 or the lesser one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus). The disappearance of the latter two varieties, namely the sondaicus and sumatrensis from the regions that continue to comprise modern independent India, remains a matter of conjecture as the early day naturalists and sportsmen were themselves not sure of the distinctions or regional distributions of the three types. However, during the first decade of the twentieth century there seems to have been some agreement and concern about the killing of the two lesser-known species at the hands of native hunters in parts of Burma and Tenasserim. Both Ali (1927) and Shortbridge (1915) provide evidence about the same in the pages of the JBNHS: "[a]s far as I have been able to find out the sondaicus and sumatrensis occur in Southern Tennasserim in about equal numbers" (Shortbridge 1915: 772); "[p]rofessional Siamese hunters, presumably having exterminated the rhinoceros in their own country, formed themselves into small roving bands and crossed over into British territory in […] Lower Burma" (Ali 1927: 861).
In the Assam that continues to remain a part of independent India as compared to Burma, an early editorial in the JBNHS (Spence et al. 1926: 803-804) associated the decrease of game animals with the presence of "grazing cattle" and not so much the poacher. This editorial further proceeded to make that prophetic statement to be repeated all too many times in the future: "it is as a poacher that man is the great destroyer". Still, the shadowy and vaguely described presence of a poacher is not elaborated vis-à-vis the rhino, as much as the bison and sambhar, whose hides could be sold for anything between Rs. 15 and Rs. 25 in the grey market. It took an interesting turn of events to hurl the rhino into the list of animals, such as the one above, that were considered more deserving of protection at this stage.
An insight into the same can be gained from the accounts of sportsmen and naturalists, but none serves us better than the person of Milroy (1934). As a Conservator of Forests in Assam, Milroy contended that the "practical extermination of the sondaicus in lower Burma, Tennasserim etc." had raised the worth of the Indian rhino's horn for its supposed value as an aphrodisiac to nothing less than "half its weight in gold". This was far more than the Rs. 15 to 25 for which the hides of sambhar and bison were being sold in the open market as per the JBNHS editorial (Spence et al. 1926). This triggered a re-representation of the past. In response to this economy of crime, a traditional demand "even by Brahmins" for the animal's body parts came to be asserted by Milroy, and the historical curve of the animal's endangerment began to be shifted in subtle ways. The Chinese, Burmese, and Siamese shikaris earlier held responsible for the relative disappearance of the sumatrensis in Burma and Tenasserim receded to leave a finger pointing at the Indian tribes such as the "Lushais and Kukis". Though one is not even sure when, and if at all, the sumatrensis ever thrived in large numbers in such areas, their supposed disappearance at the hands of the Lushais and Kukis, as against any other factors, is used to make a case of looming endangerment of the unicornis as well. The damage done by the "Ghurkali buffalo-keepers" who for Milroy had "invaded" the region no less than "30 years ago" appears alongside the more recent exploits of the "virile boro tribes (Meches and Kacharies)". Such tribes, we are made to believe, had taken to poaching by making use of the "disturbed political condition" in the region. Needless to say, Milroy grants some degrees of innocence to the colonial administration's own incursion into the region while simultaneously unveiling the unicornis as "the most important animal from the natural history point of view".
Considering the manner in which power and a naturalist discourse were playing into one another in colonial India, it seems utterly anachronistic to think that a genesis of rhino protection can be found in a growing 'scientific' or 'ecological' rationality as against a blatant concern with crime, and that too of a certain variety. Such elements of crime needed a different representation of history as well. Foucault (1994: 128) in The order of things explains that in Europe "for natural history to appear, it was not necessary for nature to become denser and more obscure" in order to acquire the "weight of a history", rather it was required for "History to become Natural." In other words, nascent ideas of nature had to be inserted or imposed onto the already existing histories. If we think of this in terms of animal-criminal processes, our history had to become natural too, but not without being implicated in a language of crime as well. This, however, does not imply that there was absolutely no reason to worry about the rhino during this period. But one can verily ask if the Indian rhino's horn had not become worth 'half its weight in gold' would it have become the 'most important animal' for a discourse on protection being passed as 'natural history'? Was it true that the sportsman never went 'out of hand' in his exploits as compared to the local inhabitants? Was not a politics of alarm concerning the rhino obfuscating the manner in which the administration was itself responsible for the 'disturbed political conditions'? Much remains to be gleaned from such moments in the history of endangerment where a species of the wild served as many political (if not ecological) purposes.
Around the time of Independence, Lieutenant Colonel Burton (1948), a famed sportsman cum naturalist presented us with a significantly rearranged order of priority. It is important to note that he was not writing from Assam, thus demonstrating the difficulty to localise knowledge configurations. In his article "Wild life preservation: India's vanishing asset" Burton allotted each species to specific headings-the elephant for Burton fell under "Crop Enemies"; concerns about plumage trade were prematurely referred to in the past tense, much like the plague back in Britain: "India had the dreadful plumage trade"; the carnivores, in keeping with the prerogatives of the old, appeared rather insultingly under the head of "Natural Enemies of Wild Life". It is the rhino, who along with the bison and the sambhar of an earlier JBNHS editorial (Spence et al. 1926), that now appeared under the requisite head of "Species in Danger". Despite a sound awareness of the food chain thesis or the predator-prey relationship, a thing which Burton displayed abundantly, the tiger and other carnivores remained neatly (or deftly) disassociated from those 'Species in Danger' in the larger construction of endangerment at this stage. The predator-prey relationship arrived before the tiger became its unprecedented king. As the gap between the rhino and the poacher was reconciled, especially in a way that did not question the movement of capital, celebrated naturalists such as Gee rose to the fore. Gee caustically rehearsed some notions of the past. He rubbished the increased stringency achieved where bird protection was concerned. He mocked, almost as though to make space for the rhino, that if according to the Bombay Act of 1951 "a man shoots a bulbul, say, in his own vegetable garden he is liable to persecution". The desperation to simplify the world of birds for the purposes of protection raised its head again as Gee (1954: 238) preferred to revert to the archaic Wild Birds and Animals Act of 1912 for a "simplified schedule […] easy of enforcement". Likewise, Gee (1954: 234) precociously stated that although the numbers of elephants are "being constantly reduced by capturing and controlled shooting where damage to crops is reported, its prolific nature leads us to feel assured of its continuance in the future".
The need to arrest poaching, of the rhino's horn in particular, marks some of the many efforts Gee took rather seriously upon himself as an influential naturalist. This combined with the recurrent need to justify the role of the sportsman who, it was believed by Gee and several others, totalled as the 'best protection' against the poacher. In Gee's (1955: 719) own words, "It is well known that the presence of sportsmen in a forest is always a deterrent to poachers". If with the birds the sportsman could not be pitted against the cultivators, the sportsman regained his lost ground with the rhino. It was rather naively thought that a sportsman (we believe of the 'right type') by virtue of being interested in the same set of animals, was likely to chance upon and thus apprehend a 'poacher' in the same block without indulging in poaching himself. In this triangular arrangement between sportsmanship, naturalist enquiry, and crime, the 'poacher' of Gee's likening further ensconced himself in the protectionist discourse of the time, by being held responsible for the "extermination" of wildlife-a thing that Gee held to be far more disastrous than resource "exploitation" (Gee 1952). Unsurprisingly, this presentation of facts as 'extermination versus exploitation' displayed far greater lenience to the latter. More interestingly, it was Gee's finding that "if a portion of the forest is sealed off by the Forest Department as a sanctuary and left entirely 'undisturbed', it soon becomes a paradise for poachers" (Gee 1952: 11). The poacher justifies the presence of the bureaucracy and further obscures the fact of resource exploitation. Somehow, the indifference that Gee maintained towards resource exploitation on account of spreading plantations, and a near obsession with the activities of poachers on the other hand, seems to be sustained in part by the protectors of the tiger. Tiger conservationists in more recent times speak rather confidently of how coffee and tea plantations around Nagarhole and Kaziranga cater to "local needs of substance biomass and employment" thus ensuring the more focussed "application of force" on a smaller population of "illegal hunters" (Karanth 2007: 376). If such prerogatives aimed at optimising the application of force on its targeted subjects have been an accompaniment of the larger effort of replicating tiger reserves in independent India since the 1970s, then it could be starkly descriptive of what Foucault (1979: 218) describes elsewhere as a growing "economy of power". 10
Notwithstanding, the arrival of the tiger can be better explained by considering a little more properly the transitions of the late 1960s and the early 1970s. This was a time when it was being increasingly realised that the demarcation of relatively smaller land masses as 'inviolate spaces'-an idea that was gaining mileage at international levels at the time-was not bound to have the desired effects, say, for the protection of a vast array of migratory bird species that flew into a sanctuary from far away over the Himalayan ranges. If the Nehruvian dream of an industrialised India had to be accomplished, the elephant was destined to be further doomed to the cause-effects of "segregation" (Champion 1927). With the rhino a number of conditions were naturally met-in terms of knowledge-power the animal was an object of hunt and thus naturalist enquiry, and the animal was an object of crime so as to legitimate ecological innuendos that obscured the advance of capital. The rhino's death did not have to be 'naturalised', as it was once with the free-ranging and meddlesome elephants in the schemes of development, and its existence did not have to be 'simplified', as it was with the flighty birds whose death could not be pinned all too easily on the hitherto criminal tribes. In addition, it could be contained in enclaves and marketed to the tourists. The only drawback was that the animal being confined to a pocket in one far corner of the country in the Northeast, provided no opportunity for the replication of this novel form of conservation that Luke (1997) refers to as a type of "capitalist anti-capitalism"; unless of course, the discourse made a quantum leap, skipping even the burgeoning concerns about the lion to the fairly representative tiger of India.
| Tiger: The 'Dangerous Beast' and its 'Habitual Poachers'|| |
A discourse of power that had straggled with the elephant, scattered with birds, and had been choked in one corner of the country with the rhino, came to life with the tiger, and it largely continues to be so even today. But the present ordering of history makes it difficult to ascertain the same. In omission of the power-knowledge dynamics described so far, the tiger's history usually opens up as that of a species which was categorised as a "dangerous beast" waiting to be exterminated at the hands of our colonial administrators through a bizarre (yet unsuccessful) system of rewards (Rangarajan 1996, 1998, 2001). This along with the fact that the animal was a prized trophy hunt in the past, stands out as a distinct chapter in India's wildlife history (Rangarajan 2001). In turn, pictographic histories such as the Tiger: soul of India provided by Thapar (2010) arches further back in time, through the episode of the 'dangerous beast', to touch the seals of the Indus valley civilisation (2500-1500 BC) on which the animal first appears in the sub-continent. Nonetheless, when such a depiction of the animal is considered against our outline of a past, the possibility emerges that the history of the tiger as an endangered species, is not entirely the animal's own. The history of the tiger as an endangered species has underpinnings in the body and being of species that are remarkably cut off from the tiger-the elephant, birds, and the rhino (and man if we might add)-and develops with serious implications for power, resource appropriation, and criminality before more directly recruiting the tiger itself. Thus, it seems that a nuanced understanding of the manner in which the tiger comprises/contests the power dynamics of the present is not possible by contemplating its presence on the seals of a past, its image as a 'dangerous beast', or even the history of its prey base in a strict sense. A different chronology seems to be at stake.
Deliberating along such lines invokes a degree of scepticism towards notions that the inversion of the tiger from a 'dangerous beast' to the 'endangered' is some kind of a break from the past, when it might at the very same time be the continued expression of the animal-criminal processes through the medium of yet another species. Though we recapitulate the essence of such processes (spread throughout the paper) in the conclusion, it is in wishing to examine the notion of a break that it becomes important to reconsider Schaller's The deer and the tiger (1964) a little more carefully. Schaller's work is frequently revered as the "first truly scientific book" on the tiger (Karanth 2011: ix). With the dawn of this scientific spirit, it was presumed that a 'new' way of studying the tiger, other than through the barrel of a gun by the person of the sportsman-naturalist had arrived. We are given the impression that the tiger now stood outside the very rituals of power and blood sport as a pure and innocent object of study alone. Only that Schaller's (1964) study ends its scientific tour de force precisely with the very same objectives that might have preceded it. The field notes, study of food habits, concern over disease outbreaks, related statistics, and appreciable departures from the methods of the sportsman finally adds up to the need for "1) curtailing the activity of poachers, and 2) limiting and gradually eliminating all livestock from within the boundaries of the park" (Schaller 1964: 331). If we treat both the nomadic grazer and the roaming hunter-gatherer as two broad trajectories of enduring concerns in the wildlife discourse since colonial times, then Schaller would ensure a passage for the same through the logics of science. Such logics resonate with what Foucault (Foucault 1979: 218) explains of disciplinary power as being "an anti-nomadic technique".
It seems the becoming of the tiger as a centrepiece of a discourse required that it continue to satisfy a historical a priori, despite the outer appearance of an inversion from the "dangerous beast" (Rangarajan 2001) to the 'endangered'. Thus unsurprisingly the sportsmen-naturalists of the past who had waged some kind of a holy war against the poacher, the roaming nomads, and grazers, celebrated this study with some zest. Billy Arjan Singh, a ravenous sportsman who gave up his guns in favour of wildlife conservation at about this time, would heap praise on Schaller's study alongside earlier works on the subject such as Robert Ruark's chauvinistically titled Use enough gun (Ward 2001). In the bookshelf of a proselytised sportsman we encounter an unruptured terrain in which the works of two 'different' eras, the bloody and the supposedly progressive, were beatifically coexisting. If anything was different we find that an archaic power, as exercised at the hands of the sportsman, was ceasing to beat down on the body of an animal to issue knowledge of a kind that was not bereft of what Foucault (2008) describes elsewhere as bio-power. "This formidable power of death," in thinking of our sportsman's right to extinguish a life, "now presents itself as the counterpart of a power that exerts a positive influence on life, that endeavours to administer, optimise, and multiply it, subjecting it to precise controls and comprehensive regulations" (Foucault 2008: 137). In a new era of surveillance, it would be Gee's (1967) sincere request that the central message of Schaller's work be read and imbibed by foresters of every rank, making the person of the sportsman seem quite irrelevant in a spreading regime of power. The fading away of the 'bonafide sportsman' of our history awaits deeper analysis from such a standpoint.
A short piece titled Penitence by Sankhala (1978) helps take this concern further ahead. Sankhala as the founding director of Project Tiger has left behind an account that nearly typifies the sentiments of a generation of elite shikaris, who were giving up their guns to establish a more empathetic relationship with the animals of the wild at the time. A tone of repentance over past hunting exploits is reasonably clear in such accounts, while Project Tiger as Lewis (2005) explains has been that "globally renowned attempt to save the tiger through a series of reserves" since the 1970s. In treasuring such accounts of this period, however, we frequently overlook the sustenance of certain colonial configurations. For soon after his Penitence, as we have it, Sankhala (1978) quickly picked up the threads of a past and set out on a mission to highlight the extremes of the trade in tiger skins and pelts. This was not inimical to the efforts of Dodsworth (1911), Stebbing (1920), Milory (1934), and Gee (1952), that dot different episodes in a history that we have tracked in so far. Sankhala showed a little more innovativeness and journalistic flare, as would be fit for the times, by enlisting the help of a "charming lady" friend. He sought to photograph her posing (on a pretext irrelevant for us) with the skins of tigers and leopards that were on sale in the market shops. These photos along with a record of the amount each of the skins were fetching made for a proverbial 'investigation', which Sankhala (1978) had "published on the front page of the Indian Express". Interestingly there was nothing sensationally new about this trade in tiger skins and pelts, yet it was at a certain point in time that the discourse began to wash up the figures and extent of such trade to the shores of public consciousness. This was matched by the aggressive creation of tiger reserves across the country. In circumventing the limitations that the elephant, birds, and the rhino had posed, the tiger had become available for the renewed rehearsal of the techniques of the past. This remains a task which is diligently performed by the sciences and a number of governmental and non-governmental agencies today. For this reason alone, we find that even though Sankhala was not able to provide any figures on the (real) increase or decrease in the numbers of tigers, he used the escalation of the value of its skin from 'USD 50' in the 1950s to 'USD 599' in the interval of 10 years to bring our attention to the "temptation of habitual poachers". In doing so, Sankhala came strikingly close to Milroy's appraisal of the rhino as the most important animal from the 'natural history point of view' on account of the escalating price of its horn in the international market. Though this legitimated a timely ban where required, it seems that if it were not for this easily detectable economy, it is likely the tiger would have faded out, perhaps, like the Indian cheetah already had from the face of our land. The tiger has been iconically survived by the historically emphasised fact of (its) crime-a strange fate that may not accrue as easily to a number of other species today. 11
For Greenough (2011: 319) the making of the tiger into "charismatic megafauna" refers partly to "the middle class public's enthusiasm for large, beautiful wild animals, and 'accidental heroes', who arouse awe and stimulate the public's desire to protect tiger habitats." The manner in which notions of criminality could enable such widespread mobilisations or instigate the heroism of some, nothing of which is accidental but 'scientific' in appearance, surely merits closer examination. In addition it is a history of science that further reveals how its theorems do not speak an absolute truth. We have seen earlier how Burton (1948) had deployed understandings of the predator-prey relationship with some exclusion to the role of the tiger. The same predator-prey relationship, without any explanations required of the scientist, would now make the conservation of the tiger no less than a "performance indicator" (CITES 2012). Nowhere is this irony-the unscientific manoeuvres within 'science'-more visible than in the historical processes by which the tiger was alleviated to the prized position of protection. This makes it important to consider the work of Lewis (2005) even if briefly.
Concerning the often nationalised cause of tiger protection in the 1970s, Lewis makes mention of the many pre-emptive measures undertaken by Indian bureaucrats to restrict the interests of conservation biologists based in the USA. Dynamics and tensions over nearly two decades are brilliantly explained by Lewis in the midst of larger concerns and fears over the "influence of US agenda, and the potential of a return to the days of colonial science" (Lewis 2005: 202). In considering Karanth's research on tigers undertaken with assistance from the West since the 1980s as a "relatively recent shift", Lewis (2005: 200) does not revisit the question of whether we have managed to extricate ourselves from the fetters of colonial science. This makes for a weak link in Lewis' thesis. A critical reading of Local hunting and the conservation of large mammals in India by Madhusudan and Karanth (2002), in fact, confirms the persistence of evolving animal-criminal processes. The above article has in more recent times been included in an edited volume titled The science of saving tigers (Karanth 2011). This piece of research for all its longevity in scientific discourse remains revelatory of the processes by which the protectors of the wilds in the past have sought to (and continue to) establish "the 'criminal' as existing before the crime and even outside it" (Foucault 1979: 252). In almost the same enthusiasm and spirit that Stebbing (1923), amid a host of ethnologists, had displayed in using hunting methods as a means of ascertaining the social groups responsible for the declining numbers of wild animals, Madhusudan and Karanth (2011: 187) assert that "75% of all hunters identified [their own] hunting as the single most important factor responsible for the depressed abundance of large mammals in this area." If the sportsman at a certain point in time tended to become what "the western man" was for Foucault (2008), "a confessing animal", the local hunters nearly emerge as though they are made of the same clay. The scientists (where it may have been sportsmen and naturalists in the past) produce elaborate tables and graphs which link social groups, hunting methods, and the species which are purportedly the target of such practices with one another, which nearly implies a rearticulation of criminality as similar yet different from what was undertaken in colonial India. For example, the "trip gun", its preferred target "the pig" and the implicated groups of "Vokkaliga, Bilava, Bunt, Muslim, Brahmin (some)" appear in one sweeping string. Elsewhere this science boasts about how such statistics were arrived at through interviews of "local informants including neutral villagers", who were interviewed we are further told "in a non-ideological context, unrelated to their immediate needs" (Karanth 2007: 373). A reductionist science can now isolate people from their needs; it can rip its respondents out of an ideological context to produce the truth; and it can swear by the neutrality of the social to raise itself to a position of unquestionable objectivity. In the distance between the sportsman and the scientist, animal-criminal processes speak more loudly of a dictum stated before: "the subject who knows, the objects to be known and the modalities of knowledge must be regarded as so many effects of the fundamental implications of power-knowledge and their historical transformations" (Foucault 1979: 27-28).
| Conclusion: Considering Animal-Criminal Processes|| |
Without valourising the role of science we have tried to track the tangible shift of concerns from the elephant to the tiger, by relying on what Foucault (2008: 99) has briefly yet pertinently described as the "matrices of transformations". It is apparent that in considering the persistence of animal-criminal processes, we have unavoidably remained vague about the distinctions between the phases of 'natural history', 'protectionism', and 'conservationism' that are frequently placed on our faunal pasts. 12 It is in highlighting the erratic career of the endangered, we have tried to elaborate at first how aspects such as the changing techniques of surveillance and implied criminality, even in their faintest form, comprised the changing fortunes of the elephant. Such rudiments gained gravity with birds where the 'criminal tribe' and the sportsman of the 'right type', without being impregnable realities, successfully maintained the tension of a protectionist discourse through the markets of plumage trade. This could not be sustained for long on account of the relatively indeterminate nature of birds. It was with the centre-staging of a species such as the rhino that the role of the 'poacher' became almost centrifugal to an architecture of power (read as the surveillance potential of sportsmen) and knowledge (read as the priorities of a naturalist discourse). This also made it possible to sustain both the crusade to protect nature and the processes of resource appropriation side by side into more recent times. The criminal makes his presence felt in each of these processes. We have elaborated how species such as the elephant, birds, and the rhino failed a growing "economy of power" (Foucault 1979: 218) of which the animal-criminal processes were a part, while also marking the ascendance of the tiger in the midst of the same. In further tracking the history of the tiger to understand the workings of science, we find that it has remained rather ill-considered how the tiger fits into a historical a priori despite its mesmerising somersault from a "dangerous beast" (Rangarajan 1996, 1998, 2001) to the 'endangered'. For this reason, we have tried to place the journey of the animal from being the 'dangerous beast' to the 'endangered' within a broader discussion of what Foucault (2008) calls the emergence of bio-power, and bring attention to the continued operation of animal-criminal processes.
Animal-criminal processes could be further described through some of Foucault's (1994: xiv) earlier ideas, where he takes a discourse to mean the tacit rules and procedures which govern the production of statements. In the light of which, our effort is not exactly to dispute the validity of science, but "reveal a positive unconscious of knowledge: a level that eludes the consciousness of the scientist and yet is a part of scientific discourse" (Foucault 1994: xi). The discourse of endangerment over a sustained period of time has indeed had particular use for the 'fact' of crime in establishing priority in highly complex environments, where there may be too many variables to account for. The ability of a species to remain protected, among other factors, seems to be dependent upon how effectively a discourse on its protection can implicate certain groups within the existing relations and strategies of power and knowledge. We have also seen how parts of our history were strategically painted with indictments of crime in order to hierarchise the cause of a species' protection. It was not uncommon for a species to be prioritised for protection, made the rhetoric of a discourse, held to be precariously standing on the brink of extinction with no more evidence than the available digits, images or descriptions of crime. Where such illegalities blurred, or the criminal faded, the species receded to the background, making space for another. It is almost as though the poacher, much like the sportsman of the old, does a service to his targets of the wild by bringing them under a domain of study and concern, which any other means of extinction through habitat loss, global warming or industrial pollution may not. Considering the recurrent popularisation of concerns over endangerment through the rhetorics of crime, we need to ascertain how the awesome yet ambiguous idea of the 'criminal' now, and as never before, forges ideas of man-animal relations. Indeed, it requires a more serious investigation to ascertain how the person of the criminal presently frames, intermediates, negotiates or even preconditions our understandings of the human/non-human divide.
| Acknowledgements|| |
The work of the editorial team and the insightful comments of two anonymous reviewers in raising the quality of the paper are gratefully acknowledged.
- Foucault (2008: 99) explains that if the sexuality of the child would be problematised in the shared relationship between the doctor and the parents, a "strange reversal" would visit this grouping when the sexuality of the parents would be called into question in the shared relationship between the psychiatrist and the child. On similar lines, we could think of the relationship between the hunter and the hunted-where carnivores were thought of as being a threat to idyllic village life in the later part of the nineteenth century (Rangarajan 1996, 2001), the designation of select carnivores as 'threatened' would raise questions on the very presence of villages around wildlife habitats, making for an uneasy debate on 'co-existence'.
- In Power and knowledge, Foucault (1980: 142) states that "power relations do indeed 'serve', not because they are 'in the service' of an economic interest taken in the primary, but rather because they are capable of being utilised in strategies." Hence we try to ascertain the role of the elephant in specific situations as part of the overall strategies of power, and draw evaluations with other contenders of protection in the subsequent sections. This is important for discerning the evolution of discursive practices relating to endangerment, and not in building a history of the elephant per se.
- Stebbing (1923: 118) in The forests of India (Volume II) shows that he had consulted local officials and correspondences on the matter. Stebbing sought to clarify, "we find a Collector of Malabar stating that persons had actually taken to elephant shooting in these forests as a livelihood." One can only wonder if being decidedly vague about the people or livelihoods responsible for extermination provided the colonial administration the desired flexibility. The "Secretary of State" is further quoted for upholding "the necessity of legislative measures being taken to prevent the destruction of these valuable animals".
- Casserly (1913: 250-251) in Life in an Indian outpost goes to state, "Absorbing as is the chase of wild animals it is nothing to the excitement of a man-hunt."
- In a history of extermination practices and sport-hunting alone, such events are bound to be glossed over. For instance Rangarajan, in his doctoral thesis, Fencing the forest: conservation and ecological change in India's Central Provinces 1860-1914, states that "the pressure for including provisions for the protection of game came from other provinces in British India, and not from officials in the Central Provinces" (Rangarajan 1996: 158) Though there are clear cultural and economic reasons for extermination practices in colonial India we find they are insufficient to explain the ascendance of select species in the discourses of protection in more recent times.
- Even today the possibility remains that animals which were hunted locally and came up for contest among different classes of society where shikar was concerned, have gotten more easily transcribed into the rubrics of scientific conservationism than others. For example in "Local hunting and the conservation of mammals in India", Madhusudan and Karanth (2011: 188) do not develop a sufficient case for the elephant for the reason that it is "rarely hunted". We are further told "that the density differences for elephants observed" in the area of study "reflect spatial variation in their abundance owing to their large-scale seasonal movements." It seems the roving nature of the elephant continues to present difficulties. In the main text, we further present the argument that apart from the fact of formal sport hunting, it was the crucial and conjoining aspects of crime and the ability to monitor a species, which played a role in prioritising the protection agenda.
- Foucault (1981: 52) makes the claim that, "In every society the production of discourse is at once controlled, selected, organised and redistributed according to a certain number of procedures, whose role is to avert its powers and its dangers, to cope with chance events, to evade its ponderous, awesome materiality." Such an understanding of discourse resonates with the remaining discussion under this section.
- In following Roy (1998) we find that notions of thugge were articulated against an existing realm of political and economic rationality in colonial India, which rather obviously did not remain the same with the coming of Independence. This, however, does not amount to an emancipationist reading of events, or anything like Independence would speak of better times for the hitherto criminal tribes.
- The Asiatic two-horned rhinoceros is referred to as the Rhinoceros sumatrensis in the literature of the period.
- We have in mind the three interrelated criteria of disciplining power, which for Foucault (1979: 218) speaks of the exercise of power at the lowest possible cost on account of the little/least resistance it arouses; the need to bring social power to its maximum intensity so that it may function in a continuous way without failure or interval; and the possibility of linking the growth of power with the output of other social apparatuses and institutions such as the bureaucracy, administration, and judiciary.
- Gee (1961) in Wildlife of India asked his readers to "imagine the year 2000", which he apocalyptically foresaw as comprising principally of "creatures such as jackals, rats, mice, vultures, pariah and Brahminy kites, crows and sparrows" (author's emphasis). Was this on account of the fact that the vulture and sparrow did not comprise any scandalous network of crime? Furthermore, even though the vulture and sparrow have received some timely reprieve in recent times, could their omission for long be indicative of the fact that several other species might have fallen on the dark side of a discourse of endangerment for reasons such that they do not figure as targets of poaching and local hunting? These remain troubling questions for the time being.
- Karanth's (2006) edited offering Tiger tales: tracking the big cat across Asia compiles various accounts over a protracted period of time under the three separate and progressive heads of "Hunting and old natural history", "Preservation and the new natural history", and "Tiger science and conservation". Like in several other works, a proper explanation is rarely provided of what exactly distinguishes such phases of our wildlife history.
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