Dr Latha Anantha, an expert on rivers and one of the first names to crop up in the struggle to protect them, is no more. The founder and moving spirit behind the River Research Centre, Kerala, she was best known for her efforts to save the Chalakudy river. She’d been diagnosed with cancer in 2014.
According to the legendary scholar Noam Chomsky, the world is “facing potential environmental catastrophe and not in the distant future,” and the only communities standing between humankind and catastrophe is the world’s Indigenous people. Here we present a selection of articles & essays on indigenous people and their fight to defend nature from ‘civilised’ humans.
Nolina Minz writes: Critics have described ‘Newton’ as ‘brilliant, subversive and one of the finest political satires we have seen in recent years.’ But watching Newton left me deeply annoyed; as an urban adivasi I felt that the quintessential element of the movie was the unfailing poverty, backwardness, and marginality of adivasi communities in India.
Madhu Ramnath writes: Time and again we have heard that the Naxal insurgency is due to “under development” in areas like Bastar. Education is also supposed to deter Naxalism, according to some, but one may ask whose education? Fundamentally it’s about respect, dignity and trust in our behaviour towards others, in this case the Adivasi.
Ashish Kothari & Pallav Das write: Genuine alternatives to the destructive juggernaut of corporate and finance capital are emerging as much from contemporary progressive resistance as from the wisdom of indigenous peoples’ and other traditional community world-views. “Radical Ecological Democracy” (RED) is one such emerging paradigm based on which we can fashion a meaningful future.
From The Wire: With a predominantly tribal population, Barkheda is a typical central Indian village. A few years ago, the villagers took charge of their natural resources and established a village executive committee. The committee governs all the water bodies of Barkheda, which now has rules on water usage, based on the principles of equity.
From Countercurrents.org: This article is about the struggle to save the rich, dense and old growth forests in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra by the Madia Gond adivasis residing in these forests. Communities like theirs don’t celebrate World Environment Day, but it is in their struggles that the ecological and cultural wellbeing of our country currently rests.
India’s Tribal communities are under extreme pressure, right from big dams and mines to violent insurgencies and militarisation engulfing their lands. In 25 years, will these communities cease to exist? Or, will they represent thriving, revitalised models of egalitarian sustainability that the rest of the world has come to recognise and is learning from? Felix
Heera Bai reports: Across the Tribal Belt of Central India, indigenous communities are constantly being evicted from ancestral lands to make way for development projects, industry, tourism and government-sanctioned conservation initiatives. In the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Baiga community have faced a legacy of evictions that dates back more than 30 years.
The Bishnois may be considered as India’s first environmentalists. The famous ‘Chipko Movement’ was inspired by the true story of Amrita Devi Bishnoi, who refused to let the king’s men cut trees in her village. Her head was severed. More than 300 people who did the same were killed for trying to protect the trees.
From The New York Times: At 82, the anthropologist T. N. Pandit passes his days in the gentle occupations of old age: poetry, a Buddhist study circle, a daily walk in the park. It is rare for anyone to ask him about the years he spent with the hunter gatherer tribes of the Andaman Islands.
From The Citizen: For his leading role in the historic 12-year legal battle that led to the protection of the indigenous Dongria Kondh tribe’s land rights against the mining giant Vedanta in Niyamgiri, Odisha, social activist Prafulla Samantara was chosen one of the six winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize, or the ‘Green Nobel’.
Excerpt from Islands in Flux, by Pankaj Sekhsaria: These communities of thousands of individuals with a living lineage going back thousands of years have been brought to this sorry state in a mere 150 years. It began with the British and their policies, which have been kept up with clinical efficiency by modern, independent India.
This day thirty years ago, the bodily remains of J. Vijaya, India’s first female herpetologist and turtle field biologist, was found in a forest. She was only 28. The cause of her death remains unknown to this day. A moving tribute to one of the most memorable personalities in Indian wildlife conservation, by Janaki Lenin.
I’ve come face to face with some of the world’s worst companies, but at the top of that list is mining giant Adani, which wants to develop one of the world’s largest coalmines in Australia, supposedly to meet demand from India. But the communities I work with patently do not want Adani or its coal.
From VillageSquare.in: The residents of Hesatu village have successfully raised a thriving forest without any intervention from the state or civil society organisations. They have demonstrated how to create a sustainable economy from ecology by raising a forest of over 100,000 trees on what used to be 365 acres of wasteland barely six years ago.
Counterview reports: At a time when indigenous communities are losing access to land, and other natural resources, these activists have been relentlessly fighting for social justice, mostly in schedule five areas and other tribal belts. Here are profiles of some of these inspiring grassroots heroes, who were recently felicitated at an event held in Delhi.
In Kaziranga national park, rangers shoot people to protect rhinos. The park features in a new BBC investigation, which highlights some of the conflicts that characterise contemporary conservation, as the need to protect endangered species comes into contact with the lives and rights of people who live in and around the increasingly threatened national parks.
G. Seetharaman reports: Activists say one of the biggest hurdles for FRA is that even states like Maharashtra, among the better performers, and Odisha are introducing policies which will help the forest department retain control of forest resources through joint forest management committees or similar bodies, which will dilute the powers of the gram sabha.
Amit Bhardwaj reports: The Jharkhand Government wants thousands of farmers to give up their multi-crop fertile lands for the Adani power plant. The plant will sell its entire electricity produce to Bangladesh. “They’ve used 1932 land records to show that a majority of the land here is not being used for agriculture,” said Vidya Devi.