AhumBasudhamKriteMangaljanak: a new awakening in Assam

Novanita Sharma

Guwahati: India’s north-easternstates with large tracts of intact natural forests, mountains, rivers, and wildernesses constitute the heart of India’s green heritage. Along with this rich biodiversity, this region has harboured one of India’s most vibrant biodiversity conservation movements for the protection of native forests and wildlife till date. This green people’s movement has been led by extraordinary determination and vision shown by exemplary individuals who fought foryears to upholdthe cause of wildlife conservation and forest protection against burgeoning anthropogenic demands. These people known to us as collective names and platformsset a rare example of environmental leadership in India.A name that unfailingly occurs to everyone’s mind is that ofSoumyadeep Datta, one of India’s finest environment activists and the Founder – Director ofNature’s Beckon – an environment activists’ group of Northeast India. Nature’s Beckon has successfully led one of the most unique nature conservation movements of India since 1980s. The journey of Nature’s Beckon since its inception in late 1970s takes one through an eventful 40 years of steadfast service in the field of biodiversity conservation. This journey conjures the diverse adversities, steep antagonism and continuous challenges faced by the organization in its zealous effort to protect the native forests of Assam through effective advocacy, awareness, and people’s participation. Itis marked withsignificant conservation milestones in India’s wildlife conservation history. This includesthe creation of Chakrashila WLS in 1994, one of India’s first successful community conservation model for forest conservation under the leadership of Nature’s Beckon. Thiswidely documented community conservation model involved more than a decade of people’s movement involving villagers, forest dwellers, youth of the area under the leadership of Nature’s Beckon, for permanent protection of this tract of pristine hill forests of western Assam as a wildlife sanctuary.This fire of forest protection swept across Assam; Nature’s Beckon connectedthe people of Assam with the rarely known aspect of biodiversity conservation during a time when such thoughts and ideology was considered elite by rest of the country. The forests in Assam would have vanished in oblivion without our knowledge if activism and advocacy of organisations like Nature’s Beckon did not take place for its protection during the volatile mid-20th century Assam. Nature’s Beckon have empowered the Assamese society with awareness about the importance of biodiversity conservation and forest protection during the most tumultuous and violent period of Assam. The changemakers like Soumyadeep Datta will be forever remembered for such courage and vision.  Nature’s Beckon’s drive to create a network of protected areas in Assam through people’s participation led to permanent protection of major forest areas all over Assam. This vision for permanent protection of forests led the Rainforest conservation movement of Assam by Nature’s Beckon which began in 1994 and resulted in the creation of the DehingPatkaiWLS in 2004 and subsequent expansion and upgradation of this rainforest patch to DehingPatkaiNP in 2021. The fight to provide permanent protection to the native forests of Assam continues till date. Nature’s Beckon has appealed to the government of Assam to protect two important natural forests of Goalpara district viz, Ajagarh forest &Pancharatna forest in the form of wildlife sanctuaries in 2022. These two forests represent the past forest heritage of western Assam and most importantly these constitutes the last remaining primitive natural habitats for a large population of Asian Elephant in this region.Nature’s Beckon has reiterated its appeal to the state government of Assam to provide permanent protection to these two forest areas of Goalpara district under the Wildlife Protection Act of India at earliest. This continuous efforts of Nature’s Beckon to protect the native forests of Assam is significant from both scientific and humanitarian perspectives. This sets a unique precedent of social responsibility rarely reflected in modern education, it echoes the spiritual richness of Indian civilization widely seen amongst the ethno-cultural diversity of our country.

Nature’s Beckon completed 40 years of this journey in June, 2022. This 4 decades long biodiversity conservation movement led by Nature’s Beckon leads India in the field of wildlife/biodiversity conservation with its successful trail across one of the richest biodiversity zones of the world. This journey of Nature’s Beckon is well documented;countless books, booklets, other educational materials published by the organisation as well as by others have led the green literary movement of Assam. The continuous effortsof Nature’s Beckon has inspired an unusual social change in Assam. This is evident in contemporary literature, intellectual and spiritual movements taking place in Assam with inherent reflection of the dynamic biodiversity conservation movement of Assam. Nature’s Beckon is conducting the most exhaustive environment awareness & environment education program in Assam since its inception in late 1970s to the 21st century. Nature’s Beckon launched a special environment program titled, ‘AhumBasudhameKriteMangaljanak’ on 4th June, 2022 marking the completion of 40 years of the organisation. This program awakens a new pledge, a new thought for school students; it involved more than 1 lakhs school students across Assam, from Sadiya to Dhubri. The school students of more than 100 schools enrolled in the first phase of this program and participated in a special oath, ‘ AhumBasudhameKriteMangaljanak’ (Moi prithivirbabeiymangaljanak) which translate as ‘I am beneficial for the Earth’. The oath comprises of the following five resolutions:

1. I pledge to remain committed throughout my life, to protect and preserve the forests, wildlife, and environment of India.

2. Nature is our mother, India is our ‘Janmabhumi’ and Assam is our ‘ Karmabhumi’. The security, integrity, peace, and richness of our motherland is our goal. I am moving ahead towards this goal.

3. I pledge to forever walk on the path of my progress and development. I will remain truthful, and will refrain from the consumption of intoxicant substances.

4. I will protect the plants, trees and wildlife living in my surroundings. I will remain mindful to never cause harm to myself and anyone else through my actions.

5. I will remain respectful towards my school, my teachers, my mentors, and everyone who helps me in my education and progress.

This is a historic event for the nature conservation movement of India, this is first time that school students in such large numbers have come forward to participate in any nature conservation initiative with such enthusiasm. This program initiated with the oath of ‘Moi Prithivirbabeiymangaljanak’ (‘I am beneficial for the Earth’) is one of the most thought-provoking environment programs ever launched in Assam. This meaningful oath connects the participating students witha new journey for nature conservation with the practice of mind-training; wherein they commit to practice compassion, perseverance, diligence to contribute effectively towards positive development of self, and the protection of forests, natural resources of the country thus pave the way ahead for peace and progress of the country. This program inspires the future leaders of the country to become compassionate individuals, responsible citizens, happier communities, andthus build a peaceful world. The graphic symbol of the program is represented with a five leaved branch of Banyan tree perched in a divine earthen pitcher- the symbol of growth and fertility, held upon a blooming lotus flower. These five Banyan leaves signify the five golden vows from ancient India. This initiative of Nature’s Beckon to bring a mind and heart training through nature conservation beautifully reconnect us with the ancient Indian tradition of ahimsa, karuna and maiytreyee which once swept the entire world with its truth and radiance. Nature’s Beckon is organising a ‘AhumBasudhamKriteMangaljanak’ lecture in various places of Assam, several schools and colleges have supported this noble initiative by providing space and time to organise these lectures. The motivational lecture is delivered by Sri. Soumyadeep Datta which is bringing a new awakening from Dhemaji to Dhubri by spreading the ideals of this program amongst the school students of Assam.This program will connect the students with nature-based training modules like forest visits, forest & wildlife interpretation, workshops & discussions, information through educational materials, competitions, etc. This activities for capacity building of the young minds are directed to implant a purposeful direction for young India. Nature’s Beckon envisions to guide the young minds towards empowered environment leadership in future through this program. The next 10 years will involve more people, mostly Indian youth in dynamic programs to connect and contribute to the cause of biodiversity conservation and environment protection in Assam and NE India, thus propelling the future generations towards a meaningful bond with Nature and this planet. This purposeful 10 years is in celebration of the 50th year of the ‘Nature’s Beckon movement’, to be completed in 2032. India must wake up to this rising of mind and heart, every Indian ought to share the responsibility of guiding the young Indians on this path of peace and happiness. It is a collective responsibility of everyone to empower our future generations with positivity and purpose.Nature’s Beckon leads Assam towards peace and progress with this new awakening. Let the nation rise to this new awakening in the East.

(The author is an environment activist & writer based in Guwahati. She is involved with Nature’s Beckon – an environment activists group of NE India and is deeply connected with the biodiversity conservation movement of Assam. She is the English editor of ‘The Seed’– the bilingual e-magazine of Nature’s Beckon. Contact her novanita_21@yahoo.co.in)

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