Whose Forests?

Suryamani – The Daughter Of The Jungle

Suryamani is the “Girl Star” of Jharkhand. She is an adivasi belonging to the Kuduk community, connected to the forest since childhood. Her father had a small field and their family also used to sell herbs and leaves in the bazaar . Her mother used to weave baskets using bamboo and make leaf plates for their living until the forest got occupied by a contractor, Shambhu. The adivasies were removed from their own forests and hence Suryamani’s family had to shift to the town.

Her father tried everything for a living but their kitchen had no food most of the time. Suryamani’s uncle,  Muniya Chacha, wanted to admit her in a school at Bhishanpur as they were not supposed to spend on food, uniform and studies of the child there.

Suryamani was so attached to the forests that she used to take a path through the forests to go to her school.

Suryamani’s journey-

Suryamani completed her schooling and went to college. She pursued B.A. after getting a scholarship. She was the first one from her village to have achieved such distinctions.

When she was in college, she got in touch with a journalist, Vasavi didi. She joined hands in a movement to save the forests of Jharkhand- Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan. 

During her Andolan Journey, she visited far off lands and cities. Also, she started working for the rights of the deprived people of the village. Even her childhood friends, Mirchi and Bijoy, joined hands with her to help her in her andolan. She wanted her Kuduk community to be proud of being an adivasi.

TORANG-

Suryamani was 21 when she opened a Torang Centre. This centre had many books, flutes, antiques from their traditional cultures.

Suryamani just wanted that her language remains alive. According to her, learning modern language is good but one should never forget their mother tongue and their cultural songs.

Suryamani, later, married her childhood friend, Bijoy. They both continued to work for the rights of the people. They kept their culture alive in the hearts of people.

Forests in Mizoram

The forests in Mizoram had a different ritual. No land belonged to a separate person. Instead, the villagers were given a lottery chance and they got that particular land for cultivation. This way all types of land could be given to each one of them, turn by turn.

Jhoom Farming

In this type of farming, after cutting a crop the land is left as it is for a few years. Some weed and bamboo grow on this anbandoned land. Later, the plants there are not pulled off but are simply cut. The land is lightly dug and not ploughed. Due to this the soil becomes fertile and seeds are sown, like rice, chillies, vegetables.

Rice is generally cultivated here. But the problem that prevails is, there’s no proper transport system as there are no proper roads or paths, just hilly areas. Thus people take their crops on their backs. This takes them weeks to reach their destination. Once they are done with the crops, this is celebrated with dance and different delicacies. Cheraw dance is their cultural dance in which bamboo is being used.

Forests and trees are not just important to adivasis but also to the urban people. Most of the work, commercial and industrial, are based on forests. Thus to keep them safe is our duty!!

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