National award winning film ‘I Cannot Give You My Forest’ inspired by the issues of Niyamgiri Adivasis
Nandan Saxena and Kavita Bahl’s film ‘I Cannot Give You My Forest’ is the story of Struggle for the survival of Adivasis in Niyamgiri.
The film has won this year’s National award in the category of Best Environmental Film.
The main theme of the film is an intimate poetic window into the lives of the Kondh, the original dwellers (Adivasis) of the forests of Niyamgiri in Odisha State.
This film is about those peoples relationship with the forest.
It highlights environmental issues and focus on struggle of tribals in day-today life.
The Kondha are indigenous tribal groups of India. They live in Odisha, a state in eastern India. Their highest concentration is found in the blocks of Rayagada, Kashipur, Kalyansinghpur, Bissam cuttack and Muniguda.
The Kondhas are believed to be from the Proto-Australoid ethnic group. Their native language is Kui, a Dravidian language written with the Oriya script.
The Kondha are adept land dwellers exhibiting greater adaptability to the forest environment.
However, due to development interventions in education, medical facilities, irrigation, plantation and so on, they are forced into the modern way of life in many ways. Their traditional life style, customary traits of economy political organization, norms, values and world view have been drastically changed over a long period.
One sub-group of Kondhas is the Dongria Kondhas.
They are called Dongria or dweller of donger and settle in higher altitudes due to their economic demands.
They have a subsistence economy based on foraging, hunting & gathering but they now primarily depend on a subsistence agriculture i.e. shifting cultivation.
The Dongrias commonly practice polygamy.
By custom, marriage must cross clan boundaries (a form of incest taboo).
The clan or “Puja” is exogamous, which means marriages are made outside the clan (yet still within the greater Dongoria population).
The form of acquiring mate is often by capture or force or elopement.
However, marriage by negotiation is also practiced.
The Dongrias are great admirer of aesthetic romanticism.
Their pantheon has both the common Hindu gods and their own. The gods and goddesses are always attributed to various natural phenomena, objects, trees, animals, etc.
Vedanta Resources, a UK based mining company, is threatening the future of this tribe as their home the Niyamgiri Hill is rich in bauxite.
The bauxite is also the reason there are so many perennial streams.
The tribe’s plight is the subject of a Survival International short film narrated by actress Joanna Lumley.
In 2010 India’s environment ministry ordered Vedanta Resources to halt a sixfold expansion of an aluminium refinery in Odisha.
As part of its Demand Dignity campaign, in 2011 Amnesty International published a report concerning the rights of the Dongria Kondh.
Vedanta has appealed against the ministerial decision, but the tribal leaders have promised to continue their struggle whatever the decision in a key hearing before India’s supreme court (in April 2012).
In 2013 A three-member bench of the Supreme Court directed the village councils of Rayagada and Kalahandi to take a decision within three months on whether the project can go ahead after considering any claims of cultural, religious, community and individual rights that the forest dwellers of the region may have.
The ruling linked the constitutional provision for the protection of Scheduled Tribes as enshrined in Article 224 with protection of religious rights under Articles 25 and 26 and the Forest Rights Act.
After years of controversy and confusion, Vedanta’s project to mine bauxite on a forested hill considered sacred by an ancient tribe has been stopped by the Indian government.