Songs Of The Forest - MHI




Songs of the Forest 

Exploring Climate Justice through
the Lens of Global Economy,
Development, and Capitalism

Dayamani Barla


illustrator’s bio

Amreeta Banerjee

Alice A. Barwa completed her MA in Education from Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Univerity, Delhi (AUD), in 2022, and is from the Oraon Adivasi community, a native of Chhotanagpur Plateau, Chhattisgarh. She has been an advocate for Adivasi rights and voices as a member of an Adivasi youth collective @TheAdivasiPost, and has been an Adivasi youth representative at UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021. Her research interests include education, culture, sociology, and linguistics.

At midnight on 5th July, it rained with a thunderstorm. I woke up to a crystal clear sky the following morning with a 39-degree exhibit on the mercury. The mind was in a continued state of restlessness as the body was drenched by heat and humidity. 

Ulta Rath Mela was to be observed on 9th July. Paddy transplantation and planting of finger millet in upper land would be completed by Rath Mela, according to farmers. Green cover of farming on upper land in Godda and Gondli areas would captivate eyes. However, farmers were not even able to plough their fields this year. The lands were not even prepared to sow the seeds in the first place, thanks to the evasive nature of pre-monsoon showers this year. Monsoon rain was nowhere to be seen till the first week of June.  

A folk song was suddenly stuck in my memory today; it goes like this-
Aiso Ka Akaal Barekha Gay Nayo  
Bari Bhetre Leva Chhitaye re
Na Leva fute Na Leva pake
Khees jane ke maare re
Khees jane ke maare re 

(In this year’s famine, the monsoon and rain situation has gone downhill.  After a delay in rain, a deluge commenced spontaneously. The time was not right for planting the paddy crop in the field; hence it was sown in a garden beside the residence. Due to untimed planting of paddy, it did not produce grains. It angered the male guardian of the house, so he is beating his wife.)

This captures the deleterious effect of climate change on the social, economic, cultural, and mental status of the tribal farming community. 

Climate change has the most adverse impact on the tribal community which is deeply integrated with nature’s life cycle, thereby threatening their social, economic, and cultural existence. 

Extreme fluctuation in the rain cycle is leading to deficit rainfall-heavy rain and drought-famine. This is turning the fertile land into barren land and it is resulting in migration in tribal communities. The aforementioned folk song encapsulates their sorrow. 

Nature-oriented tribals’ social, economic, and cultural lives grow along with nature’s life cycle. A feeling of new prosperity beckons with the growth of new leaves and flowers in the spring season. Putkal and koynar greens grow side-by-side. Banyan, Ficus virens, Ficus religiosa fruits start ripening. The women and children of the village spend a considerable time sitting under the tree and doing handicraft works while starling, crow, parrot, and other birds chirp from the fruit-laden branches of the tree. 

Nature adorned with new leaves and flowers also invites the tribal community to celebrate ‘Sarhul Parab’ (Sarhul Festival). This is the spring of life, which imbibes us with the hope to live. 
Seeing the chirping birds, they sing a song – 
Chote mote pipar gacche, kauva,
maina suga bhari gaeile, kahe kahe
suga, maina se bhelai jhagra, kahe
kahe kauva, suga se bhail jhagra

(There is a small Ficus tree, on it all types of birds including crow, starling, parrot live, sometimes they quarrel,
why are crows fighting with starlings?)

As leaves start falling from trees, the whole of nature also simultaneously harbours hope for new life, with new leaves starting to take the place of old ones. The cotton tree adjacent to the village is laden with red flowers, and the mango garden of the village is also covered with flower buds. The Mahua tree has also started to bloom. Dhelkata, Koreya, and Shorea robusta trees are covered with milky flowers. In the jungle, safflower, mahua, and jam trees laden with red-violet leaves have started to emanate a message of life and struggle to the people.

The melodious voice of the cuckoo makes honey bees hovering in the mango groves brim with enthusiasm.
There are many such trees in which flowers have started blooming along with twigs and leaves.

But today’s market and capitalist economy are adopting every trick up their sleeve to separate tribal communities and the forest land from each other. Every effort is being made to flip the long-enduring harmony between the tribal society and the forest into a searing, sour relationship. All this conspiracy is being hatched to establish the monopoly of capitalism on natural resources by isolating tribal society and nature from each other.

Due to the so-called development projects, over 2 crore tribals of Jharkhand have been displaced. Only 25 percent of these displaced people have been rehabilitated. The rest of the evicted are struggling every day to arrange for one meal.  

There isn’t a grain of food in their stomach. They don’t have shelter to live in, clothes to wear.
They are not getting basic medical treatment and are dying.  

The displaced community, who were once the proud and rightful owners of their lands, now own nothing. They have become coolies and bonded labourers. After being uprooted from their ancestral land, the tribal women are forced to wash utensils in the metropolis.

As per the 2001 census, the tribal population in the state has been reduced to a mere 26 percent. 
Today, 56 percent Dalit and 59 percent tribal women are suffering from anaemia; almost 83 percent of the children are moderately or severely malnourished. The pertinent question remains – what did the displaced tribal people get?  

A study revealed that out of the 3738 labour force in Jharkhand, 45.05% was unemployed. Why?

The suffering of the displaced locals in the name of development has raised many critical questions in front of the state and the country. It is well known that the politicians, government machinery, political system, and the law and order of the country have no answers to these questions. Forests are being destroyed in the name of industrialisation. Industrialisation has robbed nature of its pristine greenery, including farmlands, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls, and turned the landscape into a barren desert, with demonic chimneys spewing black smoke.

To take part in the development, the tribal people of Jharkhand have sacrificed all of their resources such as water, forest, land, house, and farmlands which were nurtured by their ancestors.

Countless mines and factories like HEC, Bokaro Thermal Power, Tenughat, Chandrapura, Lalpania Dam, CCL, BCL, ECL, Chandil Dam, Tata Steel Plant, UCL Uranium Mines, Chidiya Mines, Bauxite Mine, Chandil Dam, Patratu Thermal Power Plant, Tata Steel, Kohinoor Steel, Verma Mines, Rakha Mines, Karampada, Kiriburu, Baduhurang and Mahuldih were set up on their ancestral lands.

However, the tribals are not the beneficiaries of this development. Instead, they were left with epidemics like displacement, migration, unemployment, hunger, malnutrition, disease, air pollution, and water pollution. 

Earlier, we used to be very close to nature. Despite being less educated, society was much happier, more stable, and more organised. At that time, wild animals, insects, and birds were all our companions and more symbiotes. In other words, there was harmony among nature, the environment, animals, and human. It was this harmony that empowered us to fight all epidemics and adversities.

Today, the country has reached new heights of development. Everything is now global – global world, global capital, global market, global economy, global warming, and global pandemic. This global capital is dangerously weighing the whole earth, environment, and human civilisation against profitability. This is the very reason why economic profit is superseding nature, the environment, and human life. The grave result of this is staring right down at us. We are experiencing heavy rain in the summer season and hot weather during otherwise rainy days; hot weather in the winter and cold weather in the summer.

The pace of development is so fast in the world that nature has changed its very own inherent character and pace. Not only this, but nature has also changed its overall essence. There used to be dense green forests, hills covered with greenery, and rivers flowing with gushing water. Agricultural fields used to be covered with paddy, pea, barley, and other crops. The farmers would relish all kinds of leafy vegetables. All of this green landscape and vegetation are disappearing rapidly and sprawling concrete palaces are taking over this space.

This blind race of development gifted the coronavirus pandemic to the country and the world. According to a report, the death toll due to the pandemic was severely high in polluted metros. However, the death toll in rural tribal areas was, astoundingly, very low. Perhaps, the rationale behind this is that the rural tribal areas are still in synergy with nature and the environment. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people were searching for oxygen beds in hospitals in exchange for lakhs of rupees. Similar cases of the desperate search for oxygen cylinders were observed, and thousands of lives were lost. This pandemic has given a stark message to the country, that the oxygen which is given by nature for free and in abundance to humanity should be protected. The struggle of the tribal communities to protect the water, forest, and land also provides a similar message.

The tribal community strongly believes that our history, social values, and linguistic-cultural existence cannot be compensated or rehabilitated in any way. That is the very reason why tribal communities are ready to sacrifice their lives to protect the land and environment across the globe, and refuse to accept any model of development which comes at the cost of environmental destruction or degradation.

Cite this Article View all References


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