”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

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 the constitutional obligation to respect the cultural traditions of India’s tribal communities

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 | Adverse inclusion >>

“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)

“The world has enough for everyone’s need but not for anyone’s greed.” – Mahatma Gandhi quoted by Medha Patkar and Baba Amte (Narmada Bachao Andolan)

Learn more from Virginius Xaxa & G.N. Devy Devy >>
Search publications via Indian publishers & libraries:
Virginius Xaxa & Ganesh Devy or G.N. Devy >>

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)

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

Now, more than ever, we are witnessing an onslaught on a democratic, non-exclusive, and syncretic India. The ideological extremists falsely construct a pretext to target the vulnerable. Pushed to a corner, the victims resist but, at times, also fall for the evil designs of bigots on their side of the social divide. The resultant loss of sanity is victory for hate-mongers. Caught in between are ordinary individuals who, so far, celebrated and battled challenges that life threw at them along with those who were their neighbours, colleagues and classmates. Suddenly, they are forced to choose sides, suppress identities, and succumb to imposed behavioural norms. Everyone is trapped in this net of treachery. For the first time, we have witnessed the direct weaponisation of the young in schools. […]

Despite the objections that ultra-nationalists raise about our colonial past, they are torchbearers for the British idea of uniform. Many argue that the school uniform enables equality. How? Irrespective of the common colour in pants, shirts, skirts or salwars, schools are cesspools of casteism and patriarchy.

Clothes do not hide differences or equalise students; our social markers are far more insidious. Instead of dealing with the underlying discrimination, we pat ourselves on our backs with superficial plugs like uniforms. […]

Source: “Does uniformity bring about equality? Think again” by by T.M. Krishna (Deccan Herald, 13 February 2022)
URL: https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/does-uniformity-bring-about-equality-think-again-1080919.html
Date Visited: 4 March 2022

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

“I would like to direct attention to the general approach when we encounter the ‘other’ – the question of our protocol, etiquette and attitude. In our eagerness to know we probably show a disregard to these civilities. We try to buy friendship for building up rapport; we try to intrude into others’ territory without being invited and carry presents that we perceive would be appreciated to assert our friendliness.” – Anthropologist R.K. Bhattacharya in “The Holistic Approach to Anthropology” >>

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Backgrounder & image
© Economic Times >>

“Adivasi”, “Tribals” and “Denotified tribes”: Usage in legal and historical records, in textbooks, scholarly papers and the media –  Classifications in different states

Adverse inclusion | Colonial policies | Customs | Rights of indigenous peoples

Archery | Games and leisure time | Hunter-gatherers | Martial art | Nature and wildlife

Biodiversity | Ethnobotany | Trees

Childhood | Childrens rights: UNICEF India | Safe search

Ekalavya (Eklavya) | Video | Ekalavya discussed in an interview with noted Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Ekalavya and Drona shape collective expectations from a teacher and a student

Forest Rights Act (FRA) | Nishad (Nishada, Sanskrit Niṣāda, “tribal, hunter, mountaineer, degraded person outcast”) | Vanavasi (Vanvasi, Vanyajati)

Government of India | India’s Constitutional obligation to respect their cultural traditions

History | Modernity | Romila Thapar

Human Rights Commission (posts) | www.nhrc.nic.in (Government of India)

Mahabharata | Rakshasa | Ramayana

| “Casteism” and its effect on tribal communities

More than a question of terminology: ‘Adivasi’, ‘Indigenous Peoples of India’, ‘Vanvasi’, ‘Vanyajati’, and the administration of constitutional privileges for ‘Scheduled Tribes’ (ST)

Sacred grove | Worship and rituals

For additional learning resources visit the website of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), “a public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi”:

Communication for Awareness
CSE’s publications and informational products have been its strength and they have always combined research and readability to get the message across.

CSE’s tools for awareness raising are periodicals, publications, films/short spots, briefing papers, exhibitions, posters and other products. CSE’s informational products reach people in more diverse ways such as features service, website and e-news bulletins. […]

Source: About CSE
URL: https://www.cseindia.org
Date Visited: 10 July 2022