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

Bittu Sahgal, sanctuaryasia.com | Photos and full article >>

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
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)

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

Founded in 1981 by Bittu Sahgal, at the behest of legendary conservationist Fateh Singh Rathore, Sanctuary Asia is India’s leading nature and conservation portal. Sanctuary aims to communicate to readers the rationale for wildlife conservation and environment protection with a focus on the Indian subcontinent. […]

Born of a sense of wonder for India’s natural heritage, and the drive to affect positive change, Sanctuary envisions a world with abundant biodiversity, a sustainable climate and an equitable future for one and all. The organisation strives toward this objective via our numerous projects, partnerships, events and programmes.

Source: About Us
Address: http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/about-us.html
Date Visited: Thu Mar 09 2017 09:43:12 GMT+0100 (CET)

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