Monday, April 12, 2010

Tiger for whom? - A documentary film

V.G. Antony Michael

A Documentary film speaks about ……….

The 321 sq km Mudumalai Wild Life Sanctuary and National Park in Nilgiri District was declared as ‘Tiger Reserve’ on 2nd April 2007. On 28th December 2007 the whole of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve was hurriedly declared ‘Critical Tiger Habitat’ under the 2006 Amendment of the Wild Life Protection Act 1972. The Critical Tiger Habitat is to be made inviolate – free of human beings……remove local inhabitants and make it into an exclusive preserve for non-locals – the forest officials, scientists and tourists. Another 500 sq kms including 67 villages are proposed as ‘Buffer Zone’ of this Critical Tiger Habitat.

Tigers must be saved for tigers have long been a symbol of passion, indeed even for the virility of a nation. Does it matter what tigers need? Does it matter what forest dwellers need? But tigers are needed.

But none of the requirements specified under the 2006 tiger amendment in Wildlife Protection Act was followed such as consultation with people and scientific proof. Not a single right has been recognized under the Forest Rights Act, not only in Mudumalai region but in the whole of Tamilnadu though the Act became operational more than two years ago in 2008. The Forest Rights Act was intended to rectify the ‘historic injustice’ perpetrated on forest dwellers since British times with free India continuing the colonial tradition of the British.

Yet it took hardly a few days for the officials and the government to notify the Critical Tiger Habitat in Mudumalai along with Kalakkad-Mundanthur ai and Anamalai on the same day. Now the inhabitants of these areas are threatened with eviction. It did not matter that this notification violated the Wildlife Protection Act as well as Forest Rights Act.

Section 38V(4) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act requires that critical tiger habitats should be notified on a case by case scientific basis, which has been flagrantly violated. Section 38V(5)(ii) of the Act required the consent of Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers in the area. The Forest Rights Act confers community, collective and individual rights except hunting in all forest lands including wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

The people of Gudalur, and particularly Mudumalai, insists that the officials and the government does not violate the laws. The people of Gudalur oppose the illegal action of the government. On 30th December 2008, the Adivasis, peasants, agricultural labourers, estate labourers, small and marginal farmers amongst others of Gudalur held a protest rally in Gudalur town, opposing the illegal notification of Mudumalai as a Critical Tiger Habitat demanding that the government uphold its own law. They also demanded that the legal rights of the people also be recognized.

The film captures the time, mood and views of different people living in Mudumalai while the traditional inhabitants celebrate life and death ……struggling to survive with dignity.

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