On 10-12 June 2009, adivasis, forest workers and other forest dwellers from 16 states of India held a conference on ‘Resisting commodification of Forests; Establishing community governance over forest resources’. After discussing and debating they united in a strong message called the ‘Dehradun Declaration 2009’.
Forests and forest people, and the whole world, are immersed in a crisis which is more than that: “This is no ordinary crisis. Not merely, a climate crisis - or in your words this magnified self-created monster of a financial crisis. We believe it’s a crisis of Civilizations.” On one side the civilisation that “rests on ideas of power, territories, boundaries, profit, exploitation and oppression”. The civilisation that tries “to own everything, including Mother Nature. This is what drives your civilisation. You need this world of oppression and exploitation; to survive and feel good.” On the other side, the civilisation of the rest of the people. Those who don’t see the world in terms of pure merchandise. People like the forest people of the world who state:“We, the forest people of the world living in the woods, surviving on the fruits and crops, farming on the jhoom(1) land, re-cultivating the forest land, roaming around with our herds have occupied this land since ages. We announce loudly, in unity and solidarity that let there be no doubt on the future: we are the forests, and the forests are us and our existence is mutually dependent. The crisis faced by our forests and environment today will only intensify without us.”
It is a fundamental clash: “ If you want to include us in your world by ‘civilising’ us, we will happily choose to remain uncivilised. Call us savages, we do not care! We have learnt amidst these trees, this water, this air, and other forest beings- a life of freedom, of being without boundaries, and yet never forgetting the boundaries of nature.”
The Dehradun Declaration becomes the voice of the Indian forest people who speak loud: “We, therefore, reject your unnatural law, your civilization of tyranny and cruelty. What freedom? We see no freedom in being driven out of our forests, separated from water, land, fields, trees, air, and friendly animals, to the ecosystem to which we belong. What freedom, which doesn’t forget to chain its own brothers and sisters. False Freedom! We see no truth in a society that remains haunted by the prosperity of a few capitalists, whilst, never forgetting to oppress the workers, adivasis, dalits, women and poor of the world! We reject you!”
And they warn: “There is a climate crisis around and no amount of free trade, capital or technology will eliminate the roots of this crisis. You forget that the crises has emanated from the way your society is structured - an edifice based on an unending desire for resources and a way of life that sees nature as an object of exploitation and extraction. Fools! You are doomed to bear the brunt and suffer the pains of your actions, but we ask you - Why must we suffer? You have intruded in our lifestyle, in the rhythm of Mother Earth. You have corrupted the environs by your vehicles, industries, arms, and development and your actions have created a crisis in our homes. You have sinned against the essence of our being, and amidst our rage and tears, we reject the basis of your being: a thought - of mistrust, of control, of vicious self-interest, of injustice, and blame.
How dare you blame us for a climate crisis? It is the product of un-natural practices, and it has devastated our lives. How could you cut our trees unthinkingly? Temperature is increasing, rainfall is diminishing and the forests are burning- consuming themselves in pain. Now you want us out of our habitats in the name of conserving our forests! You kill, unsparingly, relish in “terrorizing” busts of tigers, decorating your mantelpiece - all pointing to your moral sensibility and - yet you have the audacity to tell us to leave the forests so that you can protect the Tigers! What law do you know? Who are you to teach what is legal? You are illegal - contradicting the very law of nature - of coexistence. You have no solutions - you only destroy.
You may not care of our times, but, spare a thought for the coming generations, their inheritance. Do you wish to present to them a world of chaos and destruction? Are you so blinded by your greed? At least, now - in this crisis - we need to unite, all civilizations, and forest people of the world, to resolve the crisis, to restore our relationship with nature.
Today, at Dehradun, we call for and welcome the solidarity and harmony of all world’s forest people; workers, adivasis and fellow travellers, on this journey to realizing the fulfilment of our existence, in communion with our forests. We warn your civilization that we are a people, united in struggle against the structure of capitalism - of greed, thievery and profiteering. We warn the nations of the world, that you must not forget to honour our existence, or else from deep within our hearts - we shout out loud: NO MORE SILENCE! We will rise from the ashes of your devastating fire! To resist your order, undeterred by your traps. We will rise - a united forest people - together, in strength and solidarity, to challenge the very fabric of your civilization, and become one with nature, again!
Arise! Forest People of the World Unite! Zindabad! National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers, India”
(1) A patch of arable land in the forest.
The full declaration is available at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/countries/India/Dehradun.html