”No one wants the forest to disappear”: Dr. Felix Padel on peace, justice, the Forest Rights Act and music

How could peace be brought, with justice? Is there even a movement for peace? How does this war compare with other wars in India, and worldwide? Few have targeted civilian villagers as remorselessly, though Ashoka’s Kalinga war, over 2,000 years ago, that killed 100000 people directly, and many indirectly according to Ashoka’s own inscriptions, presents a model of genocidal invasion and takeover all too comparable to the present situation. This paper walks through this context of Bastar.

Source: Abstract by Felix Padel (Journal of People’s Studies, 2017)
URL: https://www.academia.edu/34104980
Date Visited: 2 February 2021

More about the tribal communities in the central Indian region of Bastar >>

Baiga | Bhatra | Dhruva | Gond | Halba | Madia | Maria | Muria

“We shall first have to give up this hubris of considering tribes backward. Every tribe has a rich and living cultural tradition and we must respect them.”

Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on India’s Constitutional obligation to respect their cultural traditions
Gandhiji at Prayer Time, Parnakuti, Poona (1944) by Chittaprosad, the great advocate of the rights of workers and revolutionary artists. | Learn more in “Gandhi, Secularism, and Cultural Democracy” by Vinay Lal >>
Gandhian social movement | Constitution >>

“Air is free to all but if it is polluted it harms our health… Next comes water… From now on we must take up the effort to secure water. Councillors are servants of the people and we have a right to question them.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi, Ahmedabad address on 1 January 1918; quoted by his grandson, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, in “On another New Year’s Day: Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘khorak’ a 100 years ago” (The Hindu, 1 January 2018)

Literacy has prime value today. The question is: how to impart it without erasing Adivasi knowledge and value systems? […]

Although Thakkar [Thakkar Bapa, who set up the influential ashramshala model] was a follower of Gandhi, there is little that is Gandhian about the ashramshala pedagogy. The most recent government committee on tribal affairs, headed by Virginius Xaxa, refers to an ‘ashramisation’ of tribal education. Many ashram schools covertly became Hindu nationalist, yet followed patterns set by Christian mission schools, with uniforms, strict (often brutal) discipline, a deeply hierarchical structure, alien ‘knowledge’ learnt by rote, short haircuts, and Adivasi names replaced with Hindu ones. A 1941 lecture by Thakkar in Pune highlighted negative stereotypes about tribal ‘laziness’, ‘promiscuity’, ‘illiteracy’, and ‘addiction to shifting cultivation’. The cultural racism in such stereotypes forms the backdrop to the continuing discrimination and humiliation of Adivasis. […]

Thakkar’s 1941 lecture advocated using tribal tongues as a ‘bridge’, but in practice, even this did not happen.

Source: Felix Padel & Malvika Gupta in “Are mega residential schools wiping out India’s Adivasi culture?” (The Hindu, 13 February 2021)
URL: https://www.thehindu.com/society/children-from-tribal-communities-are-being-corralled-into-mass-schools-that-are-wiping-out-cultures/article33818793.ece
Date visited: 16 February 2021

Felix Padel is a London-born anthropologist-activist. Among other things, he was Professor, School of Rural Management, Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR), Jaipur, during 2012-2014. A great, great grandson of Charles Darwin, he studied classical Latin, Greek, ancient history, literature and philosophy, and many years ago worked as a volunteer for Survival International, especially on big dam issues including the Sardar Sarovar, before being drawn to live in India, his home for the past three decades. A strong advocate of tribal and village-community rights, he believes that the industrial assault on natural ecosystems is destined to have cascading and devastating effects on the future of humanity unless severely checked. He met with Bittu Sahgal in Mumbai while on a lecture tour with the Asiatic Society and spoke to him about peace, justice, economics and the future of life on earth.

At present the FRA [Forest Rights Act] is a stop gap against so many appalling projects threatening to displace tribal people. It is a historic act formed with best intentions to return to tribal people their fundamental traditional rights to the forest, which British rule took away. And yet – in its present formulation – by emphasising individual rather than collective title, it threatens not just the continued existence of India’s forests, but also the continuance of all that is best in tribal societies. […]

How can the divide between wildlife and human rights groups be bridged in India?

There are many ways actually, but first there has to be willingness, and the realisation that without each other we are going to fail. We need each other. “We need the mountain (forest), the mountain (forest) needs us,” as a Dongria woman put it. […]

Differences over FRA and sanctuaries can be overcome – have to be if we are to move on and become more effective. It’s been ‘divide and rule’ – allowing conservationists and human rights activists to be divided against each other is a sure strategy for making certain neither succeeds. Both face the same enemies, including inner demons and attitudes, as well as certain strong external entities and tendencies. Both sides have often stereotyped the other, and taken rigid positions. No one (except a few corrupt officials) defends the violent removals of adivasis that have taken place in certain sanctuaries. No one wants the forest to disappear. We need hundreds of bridges – a constant bridging process – between people-centric and nature-centric ways of thinking and feeling. […]

I also play and sing folk music and improvise, and find no music more moving than tribal people’s music, when it’s authentic. My ‘daily practice’ is Dhrupad and Bach, as this keeps ‘me’ in tune. Words like ‘democracy’, ‘development’, ‘sustainable’ we can argue about till the cows come home, but music takes us beyond words, to the source, inspiring, recharging the batteries that I share with others when situations arise. […]

I see a lot of hope that human beings can learn, after all. Whether it will be enough to avert the coming cataclysms of global heating, nuclear meltdown and all the other terrible threats hanging over us, who knows? But it helps to believe we may yet survive – it helps to motivate each one of us to do what we can towards this end.

First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXV No. 1, February 2015.

Source: “Meet Anthropologist-Activist Dr. Felix Padel” by Bittu Sahgal
Address: http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/people/interviews/9886-meet-anthropologist-activist-dr-felix-padel.html
Date Visited: Thu Mar 09 2017 09:29:00 GMT+0100 (CET)

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

More about Sanctuary Asia, India’s leading wildlife, conservation and environment magazine

The Sanctuary Nature Foundation’s flagship Sanctuary Asia magazine founded and edited by Bittu Sahgal has been in continuous publication since 1981 and remains India’s leading and best-loved magazine in its genre. […]

Upon receiving overwhelming support, an edition for younger readers, Sanctuary Cub, was launched in 1984 and has been inspiring generations of young naturalists ever since.

The Sanctuary Nature Foundation was converted into a Section 8 Foundation under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs in 2015 with the mission to produce well-researched communications built upon a bedrock of good science, to conceptualise and implement conservation projects while taking a holistic view on human, wildlife and climate issues.

Source: About Us
Address: https://sanctuarynaturefoundation.org/about
Date Visited: 2 February 2021

See also

Residential, Ashram and Factory schools

Backgrounder & image © Economic Times >>
  • Ekalavya* Residential School Scheme (EMR): a network of boarding schools where tribal children are to be educated in accordance with rules and syllabi provided by the government; such schools are being designated as “Eklavya Model Residential School (EMR)” with the objective of empowering students “to be change agent, beginning in their school, in their homes, in their village and finally in a large context.”
    https://tribal.gov.in/DivisionsFiles/sg/EMRSguidlines.pdf
  • Residential School and Ashram School
    In some regions there are similar “Residential Schools” and “Ashram Schools” for tribal children, as in Tripura where they are managed by a society called “Tripura Tribal Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (TTWREIS)”
    https://twd.tripura.gov.in/tripura-tribal-welfare-residential-educational-institutions-society
  • Factory schools “exist to turn tribal and indigenous children – who have their own language and culture – into compliant workers-of-the-future. The world’s largest Factory School stated that it turns ‘Tax consumers into tax payers, liabilities into assets’.”– survivalinternational.org/factoryschools | Research this subject with the help of a Safe custom search engine >>

* Ekalavya (Eklavya, Eklabya): the name of a legendary archer prodigy “who, being a Nishada [Sanskrit Niṣāda, “tribal, hunter, mountaineer, degraded person, outcast”], had to give his thumb as a fee to the brahmin guru thus terminating his skill as an archer.” – Romila Thapar (“The epic of the Bharatas”) | Read the full paper here | Backup download link (pdf) >>

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Decolonization of the “recolonized” and the “still colonized” must now give way to the exercise of “peoples’” rights to determine their own social, economic, political, and cultural future in accord with the international principle. | Chapter-1, Biodiversity-Wars
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