Throughout history, the food gathering tribals have lost to the food growing farmers and they in turn have lost to industrialisation. That we have all accepted as progress. Can we really live without our bottled drinks and internet?
The past cannot be reversed… that’s true… but can a present occurrence of this phenomenon be prevented or contained..? Do we wish to repeat this piece of history? Is it right? Is it good? Is it inevitable? Is there an alternative? Has anyone thought this out? Is there a win-win answer? Have we even tried to find one? What are the driving factors behind such actions? Do we know what needs to be done and how to do it? More than ever we have a need for men like those of Dwaraka and Sabarmati to think clearly and tell us what to think and do!
Will our displaced tribals end up as slum dwellers building our roads and skyscrapers? Is that even fair?
Below, please find an article, an impassioned plea, by Rajasekhar Das. He compares the conflict over the tribal land at Niyamgiri with the what happened to the Native Americans. He also says that to to save the tribal land and way of life is to care for the environment and climate. I thought it was important to discuss this article with others, so I am hosting it here.
Please feel free to shed light on this matter by sharing your information and thoughts.
The Article by Rajasekhar Das begins here :
The eco-system called Niyamgiri in Orissa, East India is plundered for mining, deforestation and devastation by Vedanta Aluminium, a British company owned by an Indian…on the basis of MOU between the state….it has built an illegal factory at the foothill to extract 72 million tonne of bauxite from the top of Niyamgiri…Which the Both Central and State governments promotes and boasts will make India Aluminium giant… this will destroy the numerous perennial streams in the mountain, a rich forest atop the hill where hundreds of rare species of flora and fauna including rare medicinal plants are found. And it will also bring an end to the centuries old sacred grove of the Dongria Kond tribe where their supreme deity Niyamraja the cosmic dancer resides…Niyamraja is their protector and bestower of wealth, wisdom, and the arts.
The Dongarai Kondhs has highest reverence to their hills and specially the top of the Niyamgiri Hill which is regarded as most sacred since it is on one hand regarded as ‘mudeni kaba’, a ‘kaman’ and a ‘gati’ …… The Dongaria attach social significance to hills. They regard it as their forefathers. The top of the hill is known as gati. The peak of the hill is said to be a very powerful spot. A general term describing this area, penu basa, refers to the abode of deities there. Although there are numerous tree species in the penu basa, they are not felled excepting when wood is needed for festivals or house construction. The hill top is also referred to as penu eja literally, God’s house or hour pij hinata eja, meaning the house at the top of the hill. These religious beliefs usually deter people from felling trees from the hill top. Hills with sparse tree cover are either left intact or with minimum of five to six trees remain standing to serve as the abode of the hill god and other deities. Hill top and plateau of sacred forests Kaman and Trunjeli Munari are seen as “playground” of gods and goddess i.e. Dasak or Patra. Parallels of these can be found in almost every ancient tribal beliefs though they call it in different names….
The proposed mining will strip open the forest and destroy the hill tops which are regarded as highly sacred by the Dongaria’s….. initiating the end of one of India’s most ancient and prolific cultures…..
The Dongaria Kondhs have been protesting against the land grab, illegal company and mining..These tribes even survived the British period.. but now is haunted by their own government and brothers…Protests are very significant since it is very uncommon for the Dongaria Khonds who are generally shy of interacting with others to come out publicly against the proposed mining project… This case is similar in all Adivasi issues in India…..What Adivasis want is protection of their Job and Eco system..and why are we seeing more Adivasi Land grab ? and More Adivasi Poverty ? They dont dream gas guzzling cars and TV and flats …And you want them to be developed and look like those who sit inside the glass houses in the Metros and make political opinions watching televisions…? ….
As we know six lakh villages in India with abundant food production are in poverty…Why ???…. Still Adivasis and the farmers want to preserve their tradition and life style…Their ecology is their Belief, Job, their culture their everything…and for them Knowing more and more about nature is Spirituality….and how can that exist if they are evacuated from their traditional land which was handed as holy to them by their ancestors….They are our forefathers and protectors of our ecosystem and ancient beliefs.. who fall prey for the so called neo liberal developments…for a shinig India..through so called peacefull industrialisation…which seems paradoxical…and Adivasis life is in plight with elders to mothers to children….haunted… chased…violated….abused…molested ……and their villages charred…with government in one side and the Red Militants on other side…
A story : Once upon a time in a land far far away lived people called tribals…The tribals had a neighbour called Business..Business was greedy and wanted to take away the tribals land as it was rich in Minerals…But tribals were protected by a law The Fifth schedule of constitution…This is were it gets complicated..Business asks the state to remove the tribals who were protected by government for development and alleviating poverty…and so began the little red dot…The little red dot would attack business…The state would move to protect tribals forcing them out of their land threatened by red dot…Tribals did not want to leave their Holy land…Now it was easier state removed some in the name of protection and some it called red dot…and so the tribals lost their land and red dot grew…and to expedite matters… State decides all types of attacks…against the red dot….
A letter from American Indian Chief Seattle to President Franklin Pierce in 1854…
How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us। If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people। Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man. The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the earth and it is a part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man–all belong to the same family….So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us. The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father and we will be his children. So we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us. This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghastly reflection in the clear water of the lake tells of events and memories in the life of my people…..The rivers carry our canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children that the rivers are our brothers, and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother. We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaes his fathers’ graves and his children’s birthright is forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert. I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps it is because the red man is a savage and does not understand…….
With Extracts from the Writ Petition in Supreme Court Related to Mining in Niyamgiri Hills, Orissa
Rajasekhar V Das
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