Before I also forget them, I need to mention some tribes who have inspired me and have made me devote this post to them, because this is the only way I can admire their oft-underestimated devotion . There’s a tribal group which (like so many tribes in our country) celebrates festivals in the honour of…Sal (Shorea Robusta is its scientific name) tree. These are the Santhals in Jharkhand, who celebrate the Sarhul festival by worshipping Sal trees and ‘sacred groves’. It was a moment of wonder for me to read about something that must be a way of life for them. There are some more tribes in different parts of our diverse country where tribals worship the Earth from which they carve beautiful pottery, and go as far as to apologize to them for ‘taking away’ what belongs to Mother Earth. Information about conservation would be incomplete without giving due importance to the Soligas who were evicted from their place in order to form a safer conservation zone for the tigers living there, but thanks to the efforts of Survival International, they were brought back and the tiger population in the BRT Tiger Reserve in Karnataka state almost doubled, from 35 to 68 (between 2010 and 2014).

Is this what we really call ‘backward’ way of living? These people live in the same country as we do. They use millions of species for innumerable purposes. For so many reasons, tribal cultures remain undocumented. I wonder how many books could be written about them if they were paid attention and they cooperated in return. We should be proud of them, because they make us believe in ‘Unity in diversity’, each time we move away towards ‘seamless integration’, ending up belonging nowhere at times. It is a huge responsibility to care for them, but care for them we must; because it automatically protects an  ecosystem which we try so hard to protect without even experiencing the ‘jungle life’. Come to think of it, they were living in their areas even when the ‘civilised’ world had not witnessed the advent of everything that makes it ‘civilised’. They are probably much more resourceful than we think we are..the fact that I am differentiating tribals from the ‘mainstream’ in my sentences speaks volumes about the differences we have. For us, technology is all about ‘necessity is the mother of invention laziness’. For them, eco-friendliness, organic farming, caring for pets and animals etc, are things that they probably take for granted (unless of course, encroachers arrive within no time). We can’t expect them to suddenly adapt to an office culture, can we? Why should they? Why can’t they be made to stand on their own feet with what they have (I hope this ‘have’ stays unadulterated in the years to come)..after all, although an American farmer might be a loner in a 200 hectare field, he has been given the liberty to just be a farmer and do what he does best. This is where the most important similarity shows up: they are humans, like us. They have a right to choose how to live. I think we take it for granted that they want to ‘develop’, join corporate offices etc..but what is crucial is ‘consultation’. After consultation, there is a need to reconcile their needs with our own. It is morally unethical to disturb them when they do not make a sound; and when they do, they should be listened to seriously. The world is not going to end if we try to compromise.

I am sure this is being tried by many of those who share my views, and a lot many obstacles are being faced in the process. Nevertheless, even if we fail to do something for them, we still have a lot to learn from them, each time. They know the meaning of  religion, devotion and festivals better than many religious people around us. In 2016, the only truly religious are those who painstakingly conserve the environment. Says who that nature-worship is a form of superstition? Not me.

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