Maurauding Macacas Murder Municipal Minor Mayor

By now everybody has seen the news that the Deputy Mayor for Delhi, S.S. Bajwa, died over the weekend:

The deputy mayor of the Indian capital Delhi has died a day after being attacked by a horde of wild monkeys. SS Bajwa suffered serious head injuries when he fell from the first-floor terrace of his home on Saturday morning trying to fight off the monkeys. [Link]

The coverage I’ve seen has generally been smirking, with photos like the one at right. The caption of that photo reads “Angry animal … a monkey in India”, even though it shows a monkey acting cute, and it’s above an article about Bajwa’s death.

I understand the urge to crack a joke about the matter in part because the whole story sounds implausible. That said, I want to resist the temptation to make light of this. Firstly, a person did die here. Secondly, it’s condescending, as in “Look and the wacky and quaint ways people die in India!” sort of like an Indian newspaper juxtaposing a photo of a cute puppy next to an article about Michael Vick’s Ving Rhames’ groundskeeper getting mauled to death.

Furthermore, this isn’t just about nature red in tooth and claw, it’s the actions of humans as well. Partly, this is the story, familiar in the west, about growing cities encroaching on the natural habitats of wildlife. But the bigger problem would seem to be that the monkeys are being fed by humans, which encourages their population to grow, and makes them far more aggressive:

Baiwa’s house is near a temple dedicated to Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, where hundreds of monkeys gather every day to be fed offerings by devotees…human residents of the capital have long tolerated the monkeys, whose natural habitat is the surrounding forest, and many revere and feed them, believing them to be incarnations of Hanuman. [Link]

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p> The problem has been ongoing for a while, and getting worse all the time:

In 2004 … the Supreme Court ordered that monkeys should be driven out of Delhi and local authorities started rounding up the macaques. First they sent them to monkey “prisons” on the outskirts of Delhi but animal rights activists complained. Then they sent hundreds to nearby states, where they were released into the forest. But several states have refused to accept more because they say that the “urban” monkeys steal food from villages and terrorise the indigenous monkeys.
In March the Delhi High Court ordered local authorities to capture all city monkeys and transfer them to a nearby wildlife park within three months. By May little progress had been made and members of the Indian parliament complained that monkeys were routinely entering official apartments and offices in central Delhi. [Link]

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p>I’m not sure what the right solution is – whether it is to build larger parks for monkeys or whether it is to get rid of them. Current methods are clearly not working:

The city government says that it has advertised for people to join its current team of three monkey catchers but has received no responses, despite offering 450 rupees a monkey. Experts say that one of the only ways to keep the rhesus macaques at bay is to use the larger langur monkey to scare them off. Demand is now so great that their owners are said to be earning up to 10,000 rupees a month. [Link]

While I don’t know what the correct solution to the problem is, Mandirs feeding the monkeys in the middle of town seems to be a very bad thing. However, it’s precisely the sort of collision between faith and secular argumentation that both India and America are bad at handling. Given the politics of the BJP, I doubt the BJP led municipal government will be up to the task.

Update: You might also be interested in Slate’s what to do if you’re surrounded by angry macaques

When monkeys get aggressive, it’s usually because they think you have something to eat…If you are holding a snack, throw it in their direction, and they’ll stop bothering you. If you don’t have any food, hold out your open palms to show you’re not carrying a tasty treat or back away from the monkeys without showing fear. To diffuse the situation, don’t make eye contact or smile with your teeth showing–in the nonhuman primate world, these are almost always signs of aggression.

What if you can’t or won’t appease the monkeys with food? You can try to chase them off by shaking a stick at them, but they might get violent if cornered. If they don’t budge, bop ‘em on the head; visitors to temples in India sometimes carry a stick for just this reason. Primatologists will sometimes send a macaque warning signal called the open-mouth threat. Basically, form an “O” with your mouth, lean toward them with your body and head, and raise your eyebrows. [Link]

72 thoughts on “Maurauding Macacas Murder Municipal Minor Mayor

  1. When my dad was chief security officer at St. Stephen’s Hospital in Delhi, we had the same monkey problems. Relatives of patients at the hospital would feed the monkeys causing them to come back. My dad tried several different methods to get rid of the monkeys from the hospital ground, they never worked. I once even had to run away from a monkey that I thought was chasing me.

  2. I complete agree that monkey’s are a pain everywhere. We should just get rid of them!

  3. Dravidian, that is exactly what came to my mind when I heard about this: the revenge of the Vanar Sena.

    An alternative explanation, of course is The Return of the Monkeyman! The idea must inject dread in the hearts of Delhi’s residents, but as long as it is only picking off BJP councillors I’m content.

  4. well, i wasn’t advocating death to bjp councillors as much as pointing out the syriana-esque irony of the bjp’s monkeys-as-gods position.

    this comment brought to you from the department of nothing murders humor, especially of the mediocre bad-taste variety, like an explanation.

  5. In India, there are an estimated 10 000 to 50 000 deaths a year, especially after bites from the cobra, the common krait, Russell’s viper, and the saw-scaled viper. In Burma, snake bites cause about 1000 deaths a year, and are the fifth single leading cause of death. In north-east Nigeria, a study in the 1970s showed 500 bites per 100 000 population annually, with about 50 deaths per 100 000.

    -http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673600048686/fulltext (reg required)

    perhaps we are scampering up the wrong tree?

  6. The only obvious solution to what you call encroachment is no-more children or one child only policy? Short of that, It is us against whichever unfortunate animal gets in the way. I am rooting for humans, esp, in poor nations like India.

  7. Nizam – “……… but as long as it is only picking off BJP councillors I’m content.”

    What a disgusting thing to say!

    btw, the deceased, Mr.Bajwa, was a Sikh.

  8. think brueghel

    The elder Breughel?

    stray mongrel that’s been whipped so hard it skulks quivering, from heap to heap, sniffing the odd scrap. and the cows that die in agony with their intestines twisted by polythene bags and their diseases that distend beyond their anus in a mottled red heap simmering with flies.

    This, dear khoofia, sounds more like Hieronymus Bosch.

  9. The elder Breughel?

    I did have his Death in mind.

    This, dear khoofia, sounds more like Hieronymus Bosch.

    Unfortunately, sometimes reality is as macabre as it sounds. Have seen it as I describe it. The logical conclusion is, as desi uncle puts it, “Indian! Bosch is Indian”. :-)

  10. Have seen it as I describe it.

    It’s your power of description that makes it richly grotesque.

    Bosch is German, they make great appliances.

    Ja, Genau. Ennis, isn’t time for a food post? (batting lashes)

  11. The plight of stray animals in India, cows (the other revered beast) and tonga pulling horses included, is one of the sorriest sights. And I am not saying this with an American sensibility. I left India as an adult. I felt the same way when I lived there. But then I have always been an unapologetic and ardent animal lover. I was routinely laughed at when I went berserk over the plight of an injured animal on the road or screamed at tongawallahs who mercilessly whipped their skeletal horses.

    The marauding monkeys of India are probably the best off. They live in groups, are self sufficient and take care of their own.

  12. Ruchira, I like your kind heart. And, I’d say, historically it isn’t an American (western) sensibility to truly care about animals, right?

  13. Bess, no. And it shouldn’t be. But there is often a mindset that when people are deprived and suffering, there is little compassion to spare for animals. India doesn’t have organized cruelty towards animals like in the west (corporate chicken, pig farms) but casual and mindless individual cruelty abounds. Kicking / deliberately running over stray dogs, handing a lighted cigarette to a zoo primate, abuse / neglect of sick and suffering domestic animals are common place. While desperate economic reasons can explain some of the neglect, it doesn’t explain deliberate cruelty.

  14. Ruchira, have you heard of Gregory Colbert? He made a stunning film about the relationship between humans and animals “a 21st century bestiary”, called Ashes and Snow. Here’s a vid from Ted.com, if you have only 9 minutes to spare, skip to 2:00min in to the presentation. I’m curious what you think of it.

  15. ruchira & bess: the bishnois(among many other communities/movements) are a good example of indigenous community which aggressively protect animals.

  16. Unfortunately, sometimes reality is as macabre as it sounds. Have seen it as I describe it. The logical conclusion is, as desi uncle puts it, “Indian! Bosch is Indian“. :-)

    khoofia, i enjoyed the (“richly grotesque”) literary twists you brought to the thread. the indira+sanjay gandhi allegory sounds like it might be a good read. you have an awesome handle, btw.

  17. Incorrigible humans. You are truly the lowest form of life imaginable. First you take over forests and lakes and mountains and denude them or raze them to the ground. Then you build ugly suffocating polluting cities that gradually spread outward, oozing filth and disease, like parasites sucking life out of their host and leaving only lifeless waste behind. Not content with that, you refuse to share space with ANY other species. You kill/neuter/cull/eat/cage any creature that so much as ventures within your precious boundaries. Who died and made you God? You create sanctuaries/preserves/national parks as a consolation to us, so we can be content within the confines of these glorified cages, while you continue to pillage and rape the rest of the world.

    No other species is as remarkably selfish and heartless as you.

    It’s not even enough that you hate us. You hate each other just as much.

    The funny thing is, no matter how often you’re confronted with the truth, you won’t change.

  18. portmanteau, petite chou,

    I’m so glad you’re still around. Thanks for the link. And I see you getting smirky with my “richly grotesque” ; )