Muddying the waters

This article by Amalesh Choudhury appears to be a rejoinder to Amitav Ghosh’s piece on the perils of setting up a tourism complex in the Sunderbans, but a somewhat misconceived one. Choudhury has two main gripes: he accuses Ghosh of getting some of his details wrong, and painting the Sunderbans as a hellish, muddy swamp infested with dangerous creatures, dacoits and river pirates. He also writes:

“Strangely, Ghosh’s worries don’t extend to the 4 million people who call the Indian Sundarbans home. If the author is right, this environment that they have been inhabiting for centuries must be a perpetual horror.”

I think Choudhury has misread Ghosh. If you’re trying to stop a corporation from building another Tourist Disneyland in an ecologically sensitive area, or trying to mobilise public opinion in this sphere, you have two options. One is to talk about the damage this will inflict on the environment and the people who live there–given the levels of apathy in India, this approach is equivalent to lighting a candle in your window in support of some cause; it provides personal relief but changes absolutely nothing. Ghosh takes the tack that if you want to stop a project aimed at tourists, use arguments that might work on potential tourists.

As for whether it’s appropriate for Ghosh to criticise Sahara, hey, he’s not the only one. And any group that thinks it’s a good idea to provide tiger sightings for tourists by setting up a system of cages where retired circus tigers will be kept in captivity needs to have its “systems” questioned.

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