Influencers on Yobin Society: Aparajita Datta

Aparajita Datta (Photo: Topnews.ae).

As we all know, in our villages all know her by the name “Loghina” (loghi is a variety of deer and na is the Lisu way of indicating the first born daughter). I have never met this great lady but her reputation goes much ahead of her.

Recently I have been thinking how to describe her. She is a mobilizer, a social worker, a scientist, an adventurer and a leader. Then I read her bio in the National Geographic and I thought they captured her well, “… persistent requests for government attention, Datta is uniquely poised to connect political, conservation, and local interests.”

HER CONTRIBUTIONS FOR LISU

Among all the researchers who have come to Lisu area, none have influenced us as much as she did. Look at what she and her team did among the Lisu/Yobin:

  • In partnership with Katha Schools, she started four schools in Ngwazakha, Hazolo, Shidi and Shidiku since 2005. One of my sisters studied in their school and she is doing well in her studies.
  • Flood control in Shidi. Noa-Dihing River destroys our paddy field. She and her team built control by putting stones and boulders inside metal wrap locally called “Jhali”.
  • Medicines at Shidi. Essential medicines were dispensed until recently. That helped many sick people.  For one round, she organized medical camps in many of our villages.
  • Solar lamps, water heaters for Hazolo villagers were provided in collaboration with Madam Nandita Hazarika of EcoSystems-India, based in Guwahati.
  • She wrote a lot on her research. Through her writings, our problems and needs are projected to the world.

I am very glad she recently received “Green Oscar” award for her initiatives to preserve the hornbill.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

She used emotions to get her way. When people don’t agree with her, she cried. What can you do? Sometimes she gets extremely angry and walked away, leaving the people behind confused.

I’m often surprised in her statements about us, hunters or to her Lisu workers “ex-hunters”. Its strange to brand the whole tribe as “hunting tribe”.

She never disclosed she is working for the Namdapha National Park and a member of the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India. That became apparent to all Lisu only in 2010 when she represented the Tiger Project at Miao. People in the villages without internet access blindly believed. Because of this, I wonder whether our people will accept her as we did in the past.

She had also formed a group of Lisu men, several years ago, to help her distribute financial assistance to the Lisu students studying in and around Miao. She had also proposed to financially help Lisu business aspirants.  Both these promises are yet to be realized. But we hope she will fulfill them as well.

FINAL COMMENT

But whatever the reasons, she is a remarkable woman. She benefitted the Namdapha, the Lisu/Yobin, her organization “Nature Conservation Foundation”. For Namdapha she had provided information, to us she has done several humanitarian projects, and to her organization, she developed many scientists and a name.

Read more:  her writings, profile, Nature Conservation Foundation.

 

Tigers in Namdapha National Park

The Project Tiger boasts the number of tigers in Namdapha have increased over the years. 49 in 1993, 52 in 1995, 57 in 1997 and 61 in 2002. If there were so many how could Aaranyak, a Guwahati-based NGO captured only one during their research in 2012? Read their news release.

Aparajitta Datta, who researched in Namdapha area over a decade, concluded there was no indication of the presence of tiger “there was no evidence of tigers (Panthera tigris), suggesting their possible extinction from the lower elevation forests”. (See her paper “Empty forests: Large carnivore and prey abundance in Namdapha National Park, north-east India”). This is coming from a researcher who have recently became a member of National Tiger Conservation Authority.

The villagers of Vijoynagar Circle, both settlers and Lisu, have been trekking to and fro through the Park for these years. I wonder how many have seen a tiger. I haven’t heard anyone attacked by tiger till this date.

Throughout my student years and since, I have been walking through, in all 13 times. I haven’t seen either. Below: My itinerary through the Namdapha.

Shidi to Miao Miao to Shidi
1993 Feb
1998 April
1998 October
2003 April
2003 June
2004 April
2004 June
2006 August
2008 Dec
2009 January
2011 October
2012 February
5 Times 7 Times

I keep thinking: Why would Namdapha people over shot the numbers?

Our Stand on the Traditional Land

Aparajita Datta captured it well (Making headway in Down To Earth, April 15, 2006. Page 44):

“The Lisu had two suggestions  to make: either push back the park’s boundary or resettle Nepalis inhabiting  the area (Nepali families are economically better off, with better jobs and landholdings three times bigger than that of the Lisu); and give them more agricultural land in Vijaynagar circle. They also made it clear that they would not settle in areas near Miao, the traditional territory of other tribes”

PROBLEMS

The Yobin society had made our stand clear: either push back the Namdapha or resettle the settlers. This has problems both sides.

If the Park’s boundary is pushed back to 40th Mile, half of the Namdapha Wildlife Sanctuary will be lost. The authorities will hesitate alot or never want to do that. For them animals and trees have sometimes more value than human.

The option to resettle the settlers is difficult for the administration, not for wildlife people because they reside outside the Namdapha area. It would be even touch on  ex-servicemen to leave where they have been living for the last five decades. But if the administration  really want to do this action to save the Park, they just have to deny the renewal of the land lease, which is renewed every 30 years.

If either of the options are not provided as solution, it is very difficult for our community to servive. We have been crunched between 80 Mile to Angichidu (Ramnagar), about 12 km. Only Shidi has plain land. How would we survive as more than 90% of our people depend on land produce?

RESPONSES WE RECEIVED

In 2011, the Namdapha authorities and administration chaired by ADC, wanted to resettle us at 10 Mile. They want to see a settlement like Cheophelling Tibetan Settlement at Miao, where they cannot move beyond the boundary. How can we agree to such non-sense proposal?

Another observation, in the proposal, they gave solution only those currently living within the Namdapha Park. The problem is not just for them. It is for the whole tribe.

I wonder what other strategies our administration and the Namdapha authorities will have in mind. Whatever the proposal, none of them will be in our favour. They have never been thinking for our welfare. Their only mindset: How can Lisu/Yobin be thrown our of the Namdapha National Park.