Fisherman survives tiger attack
By Amitabha Bhattasali
BBC News, Calcutta
An Indian fisherman whose father was killed by a tiger 20 years ago has dramatically survived a similar attack in the state of West Bengal.
The Bengal tiger struck on Tuesday as Fatik Halder was crab fishing in the Sunderbans mangrove forest.
For 20 minutes he was embroiled in a life or death battle with the animal, which bit and clawed him repeatedly.
Mr Halder then had to survive a traumatic journey to Calcutta to get treatment injuries to his upper body.
As Mr Halder fought the tiger he remembered that his father, Gour, had been killed in a similar attack.
“Around 10 o’clock in the morning, when I jumped into the water in Benifeli forest and threw in the [fishing] net, I suddenly felt a searing pain,” he told the BBC.
“I didn’t know, for a couple of seconds, what had hit me.”
Realising that he was under attack from a man-eater, Mr Halder decided to fight back.
He thought of his two children and wife, who were at home waiting for him to return. He frantically dug his heels into the mud and levered his fingers under the tiger’s jaws.
“The pain was becoming unbearable. I don’t know how I managed to dodge the blows,” he said.
The animal’s teeth pierced his right shoulder.
It tried to wrestle him to the river bed with its paws but the water and mud made it difficult for it to keep its footing and it finally gave up.
Bleeding and traumatised, the injured fisherman then had to survive another ordeal – the 10-hour journey to Calcutta for medical treatment.
Fatik’s heroic survival has already passed into local folklore.
He now insists that his fishing days are over and that he will be looking for some other job.
But perhaps he should consider himself lucky to be nursing his injuries alive.
A day before he was attacked another man, Narayan Das, was savaged by a tiger which clawed him in the neck inside the Sunderbans reserve.
It happened when Mr Das’ boat became stuck in one of the numerous creeks that criss-cross the mangrove forest and he and other fisherman jumped into the water to push.
By the time his friends managed to fend the tiger off using kitchen utensils, sticks and other items, Mr Das was critically injured.
He was officially declared dead in the nearest town 100km (62 miles) away.
His family will not get any compensation, forestry officials say, because the fishermen were trespassing in the tiger reserve.