The wealth of the indigenous people is not just the land but also the things that grows on it, lives on it, rest and dwells below it. Therefore, it is imperative that when we struggle to save the indigenous people we must also include our environment, our plants and animals, in the discourse. Indigenous people’s movement must include the conservation of our surroundings. We should not just remember the relationship between various indigenous communities but also these communities have with their environment.
The destruction of the environment by local people as they need more space and more income have affected the environment. However, a place like Manipur in anyway cannot contribute much to the destruction of the environment at the global level. The blame should squarely be handed over to multinational companies who destroy the environment globally. Manipur cannot escape from the wind of destruction that is sweeping across the world. We can wait for them to come here and destroy the environment. We should be very careful in allowing things in the name of development that affect our environment. Anyway, whose development we are talking about. Can the destruction of the environment go hand in hand with the development of the indigenous people ?
The indigenous people and their environment are intertwined. Can indigenous culture be disassociated with the environment in which it grew up ? These questions must make us see the relationship between the two. The two must go hand in hand. Our forests are now being destroyed, hills that dot the valley are losing their green coverings fast. Illegal mining is rampant. Our indigenous animals, including the indigenous dog, Awang Huijao or Haofa, is now endangered. Shrinking of paddy land, destruction of wetland and forest must be addressed properly. Many of our indigenous plants and animals are now endangered. Even our indigenous domestic animal, Haofa, popularly known as Tangkhul Hui, is now endangered. Our rivers are severely affected, wetlands are shrinking, flooding is becoming a major issue which destroy the livelihoods of many. Will the indigenous people recognise their environment after some decades ? How are we to call ourselves indigenous if our forest, hills, pants and animals are gone ? We will be indigenous people living in concrete jungles, mine quarries and barren land.
The responsibility should not be just for the government. It is also the people who are responsible for it. It is our responsibility to defend and safeguard our environment. We cannot wait till a different reality knocks on our door and we find ourselves lost in a new world where we do not recognize our surroundings.
- Published in Editorial