Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh (MP) has a rich history of tiger conservation and it comes naturally to the native, tribal community here. However, in the past few decades, several tribes have been evacuated or displaced under the garb of tiger conservation and the members are slowly losing touch with their roots and forgetting their age-old traditions.
According to reports available, around 450 families from the indigenous Baiga and Gond communities were evicted to protect tigers in the Kanha Tiger Reserve in 2014. Forest-rights activist Vivek Pawar said the government and authorities make displace these tribal people as they feel tigers and human beings cannot exist together. However, he is quick to point out that these tribal people have co-existed with animals including tigers for more than 100 years. And a century ago there were more tigers than are at present.
Vivek Pawar alleged that hundreds of tribals community are being tortured by forest officials under the veil of tiger conservation.
As per latest reports, out of the 2,967 tigers in the country, MP has 526. The state is also home to numerous tribal groups. The Baigas, an indigenous tribe that resides near the Kanha forest in Mandla and Balaghat district, are a perfect example of tiger-human co-existence. However, the, the Baigas have been the victims of forced evictions by authorities since the 1960s. The frequent displacements have led to disastrous consequences for them.
Sixty-year-old Mangal Baiga, a resident of Katanga village near Kanha Tiger Reserve, said that a few years ago they had to leave their village ‘Saup Raunda’, located inside the forest, under the instruction of authorities and were rehabilitated to Katanga village.
Mangal informed that tigers are like their family members and their life revolves around them. “Even if tigers are hunting the cattle, we don’t mind. We think if the tigers are protecting our fields and forest, they have all the right to prey on our cattle sometimes,” said Mangal.
Arjun Singh Dhurvey, a senior Baiga artist from Dindori district, informed that the tiger is considered a brother and god by the members of the community. He informed that God Bagheshwar, who has the form of a tiger, is inspired from the local tongue for tiger and is worshipped before the cultivation or harvesting of crops, weddings and the birth of a child.
Arjun revealed that there have been instances where tigers have killed a member of the tribe. But even then they don’t take any measures. “We have a unique practice in which we slaughter a tiger made of clay. This ritual plays a crucial role in calming the man-eater,” said Arjun. He also informed that the Baigas, to avoid a clash with the tiger, don’t bathe for two to three months. They believe that the tiger, being god, wouldn’t attack an unclean person.
Owing to strict regulations by the forest department and authorities, the Baigas cannot move freely in the forest. Activist Pawar highlighted that as the members of the new generation of the tribe are not able to move freely in the forest, they are missing out on the traditional knowledge.
Earlier, the tribal people used to roam in the forest and collect herbs. They would transfer the knowledge to newer generations. Pawar is wary that the newer generation wouldn’t be able to learn about their traditions. He said that centuries of knowledge about herbs and medicinal plants that have been passed on from generation to generation will soon be lost.
PNN & Agencies