Of Elephants, Conservation, and Indigenous people
The death of 20 elephants, killed allegedly by lightning, has brought Mikir Bamuni into spotlight. Good thing. People are now agitated, so much so that they are even talking about forceful land grabbing by Azure Solar Plant. Even before the death of those elephants, there was a movement going on against the land grabbing but not many bothered. It took the death of 20 elephants for people and mainstream media to talk about lands of indigenous people. This is what the modern conservation discourse, propagated by various international organisations and academics does to you. It removes people from nature and wildlife. Indigenous people have protected and preserved nature and wildlife since time immemorial and have lived in harmony with it for ages. They have done it before it became vogue and will continue to do so, not for funding but because their life depended on the balance. But in the neo-liberal discourse of conservation, wildlife is confined into parks and sanctuaries. This is done with an agenda. Because, only when wildlife is confined to the park, can the area outside of it be exploited for Neo-liberal gains. And the nature and wildlife area within also serves the purpose of the middle class and elite’s need to get entertained from nature. Resorts, safari, and tourism all of it. Indigenous people are suddenly now encroachers, poachers and what not. The same people, who worship nature are suddenly being evicted from their own lands. And this ‘individualized discourse’, often backed with massive funding continue to grow in Assam too. It is the same discourse which makes Assamese people so obsessed with the one-horned Rhino, that they are ready to turn a blind eye on human rights violations in the name of conserving it.
Another important point about so called ‘green energy’ being the future of the world. Yes, it probably is and there is a need to shift. But for majority of the indigenous people, the energy, be it black (coal based) or green (solar, wind etc.) least matter, because they are losing their lands either way. Earlier to coal fields and now to solar plants and windmills. I see almost a similar obsession when it comes to transition from coal to green energy. All good. But this transition must also talk about people, the land, and the human rights violations. Or else, nothing really changes in the world of Indigenous populations.
(Featured image picked from google image search. No copyright infringement intended)