PUNE: Documentary filmmaker Krishnendu Bose on Monday said that the concept of conservation through community and children’s participation can be far more effective if efforts were made to preserve tribal culture and heritage.
Addressing a news conference, Bose, who was conferred the ‘Vasundhara Mitra’ award at the Vasundhara International Film Festival, on Monday, said, “Entire knowledge banks on the tribal way of life are being gradually wiped out due to ineffective policies and an unsuitable pedagogic approach that force an urban perspective on tribal issues.”
Bose has made award-winning documentaries like ‘Tiger – The Death Chronicles’ – on the crisis of tiger deaths – ‘Harvesting Hunger’- a film on the politics of food in India – and ‘Jardhar Diary’ – on community conservation in a village in Garhwal Himalayas – among others. All these films have been the result of a partnership with communities and tribals in different parts of the country. “We are using some participatory tools for school children and helping them learn and make short films on different environmental issues. We began a non-profit trust, ECO Trust, under which such a pilot project was implemented with 200 underprivileged school children in Delhi last year. They made 10 short films of one or two minutes each, on different themes like water and trees, chosen and scripted by them. It was an effective experiment because the films were entirely from the children’s perspective,” Bose said.
The next such project will be done at a tribal school, Adharsheela, in Madhya Pradesh, later this year. “My focus has entirely shifted to involving children in the film-making process and to let them bring about their self-awareness into the films they will be making.”
He feels innovative teaching techniques are needed to educate children on tribal people and environment. “Making a subject like environmental science compulsory in schools is a great beginning, but the teaching approach to this subject has been wrong because here experiential learning is largely missing. The same approach is being applied in schools for tribals too. An urbanisation of education is happening.”
For the last 30 years, he has been making socially relevant films to get important messages out to the larger world with the hope of initiating some sort of change. The tribal communities remain close to his heart. “Sadly, all these years, we have not been able to give value to tribal identity, or preserve the whole tribal information and knowledge system as well as culture. Demarcations between tribals and urbanites are blurring because markets are encroaching upon tribal societies. Besides, the tribals too want to reside in cities. There’s nothing wrong in that. But the tribals have been pushed to homogenise themselves with urban society. We have also been telling the government to rehabilitate them, because they are supposedly “primitive.” So the tribal people are made to feel they are inferior,” Bose said.
Lack of unity among experts on wildlife and tribals is another issue. “These experts can never come together and work smoothly because they haven’t recognised the connection between tigers and tribals. Even the existing legislation for tribals, though with good motives, has been politically hijacked. Sadly, middle-class urban sensibilities are also being used to understand tribal way of life,” he said.
But tribal empowerment is apparent. “The Panchayati Raj system decentralised power. Field-level planning system has brought about considerable empowerment among tribals. But if the tribal way of life goes extinct, our nation as a whole, will suffer. Understanding them from the level of equality is needed,” he said.
Bose visits schools in Delhi to conduct awareness and sensitisation programmes on environment and tribals.