Van Gujjar tribe plans annual tree plantation drive to keep forests green

This will be celebrated as a festival every year for a week as a practice of giving back to nature

The Van Gujjar Yuva Sangathan (Van Gujjar Youth organization) has come up with an initiate to increase forest cover and to give back to nature what they take. The youth organization headed by its President Amir Hamza has resolved to plant trees at a self proclaimed annual event “Sela Parv” (Green festival) which will be celebrated every year from July 29 to August 4. During these days, the Van Gujjar community will plant trees in forest areas where they dwell. As per the press statement issued (in Hindi) by the youth organization, since they depend on forests completely for their livelihood, they resolved to plan trees to do their bit for the forests.

The statement further said that while at community level they try to give back to forests in their own way, it remains limited to that since most of the community members are nomadic and migrate from uphill to downhill through the year, depending on seasons. As more and more community members have started permanently settling down in forest areas, they have started this tree plantation drive, as an annual celebration to encourage the practice. The statement says that this is an effort being made at the community level to increase forest cover and to keep the forests green.

The annual celebration is being called “Sela Parv” as Sela in Gujjar dialect means ‘green’. It will be celebrated by community members by gathering in the fields, eating ­kheer and singing their traditional folk songs to celebrate the tree plantation. This drive was started at Gaudhri range, Kumaon, near Miya bazaar on July 29 and will be celebrated on August 3 at a larger scale in Ram Nagar in Kumaon along with Van Panchayat Sangharsh Morcha. Their aim is to spread the word about the annual festival across the community located at various regions of Uttarakhand so that each year the scale of the festival widens and the tree plantation drive becomes a success.

The forest dwelling communities across the country have faced exacerbated harassment and oppression at the hands of forest department officials during the lockdown owing to COVID-19 pandemic. Many a times, the reason accorded to eviction of these communities from the forests is that they are endangering the wildlife and their activities are harmful to the flora and fauna of the forests they dwell in. It is initiatives like these, involving forest department officials, that will prove favorable for such forest dwelling communities in the long run and could eventually put a stop to the historic injustices being meted out to adivasis in India.

The complete statement may be read here.


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