An undercover probe by a French TV channel Canal Plus showed that several thousands of tribal Baiga people have been forcibly evacuated from Kanha in the name of tiger conservation, which pro-tribal NGOs said was aimed at tourism attraction than conservation of the animal.
Kanha – home of the “Jungle Book” – witnessed massive evacuation of the tribals last year against their will and have been left to struggle for survivial in surrounding villages without aid or alternative life-support, said Survival International.
Sukhdev, a Baiga man, who gave an interview to Survival International, was killed later in mysterious circumstances. In his 2012 interview, he told Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights: “We won’t find another place like this. How will we set up home there? How will we raise our children? We need our fields and homes … Won’t we die?”
Sukhdev’s brother told French TV Canal Plus in 2014: “We were one of the last families to resist. But the people from the reserve forced us to leave. They told us they’d take care of us for three years, but they didn’t do a thing. Even when my brother was killed, no one came to help us.”
Anthropologists said the tribals lived for generations with tigers and they consider the animal their “younger brother”. Since tribal and animal co-habitation was never questioned, the move to shift the tribes away from Kanha Tiger Reserve merely indicates that the tribals were not voluntarily shifted but forced to move out, said a report by Survival International.
Almost 22,000 tribals have been evacuated but their resettlement is still a major question raised by NGOs in the region, it said.
Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said, “So-called ‘conservation’ continues to destroy tribal peoples as it has for generations. They’ve never threatened the tigers, who would do better if the tribes remained and the tourists stopped. Tribal peoples are generally better conservationists anyway than industrial-sized NGOs.”