Confessions of a conservationist

Soumyadeep Datta with Late Kamal Narayan Choudhury
WhatsApp Image 2022-05-28 at 7.09.02 AM

By- Late Kamal Narayan Choudhury

(Presented by Novanita Sharma)

‘Confessions of a conservationist’, is a rare account of honest revelations once shared by Late Kamal Narayan Choudhury, the erudite Zamindar of Rupshi state with young Soumyadeep Datta, the well-known environment activist of India. These sincere confessions came at a time when human world was intoxicated in delusional thoughts of taming Nature and ruling the planet with the scripts of megalomaniac human supremacy. Confession requires courage which often roots from the strength of deep-seated compassion of the individual, confession is a spiritual journey of an individual which benefit others by providing a rare second chance of introspect into the given situation/ reality. These confessions reflect a nature loving nobility who met forests and wildlife as a shikari, had the opportunity to feel the verdant Nature in its best form and who was moved so deeply by the depletion of his beloved forests, grasslands, aquifers and wildlife that he launched himself as perhaps one of the pioneering nature-activists of India with these confessions in front of his future generation. These confessions bring forth a rare picture of a humble nobility who had the vision to see the failings of his era, he is someone who cared to be part of the solution to the problem created by the ignorant actions of his contemporary world. These 3-pages long confessions penned by Late Kamal Narayan Choudhury in 1978 compels us to take a deeper look into our past actions as well as in our present predicament. Our ancestry has incorrigible flaws, the natural bounty of our forests and wilderness blinded our ancestors from foreseeing the future ecological threats to our planet. Sadly, these blindfolds are still intact after 50 years of these confessions; we still chose to remain indifferent to the ecological threats faced by humanity – be it climate crisis, extinction of species, loss of forests, drying of our rivers, salinity of soil and so on. Humanity either choses to get driven by the deluded notion of plenty and abundance or we brazenly ignore the threats standing naked in front of us. The plentitude of Nature once validated the game hunting expeditions of the confessor and his compatriots, and now human beings empowered with scientific knowledge and understanding of every possible ecological threat still fails to honour the forests and wildlife with its due protection and preservation. Ignorance, pride and self-centeredness seems to ail the human vision from time immemorial and these vices are the main impediments in taking sensible decisions by the human race till date. The honest concerns evoked in these confessions give us a rare clarity of thoughts, it drags us out of our self-obsessed delusion to face the reality regarding environment protection and wildlife conservation. As been pointed out by the confessor here, “Now, the conservation projects are colourfully spread over the committee tables, but poor Nature’s colours, tunes, purity are vanishing under man’s ruthless, covetous touch. The outcome of the race between destruction and replenishment by human effort is grim and black”. Wildlife/ biodiversity conservation is about rescuing our ravaged planet handed over to us by our forefathers who failed to defend it, but the inability of successive generations of human beings to act decisively upon the urgent needs of this planet to safeguard our dwindling natural resources raises questions on our integrity and intelligence. Apart from noise and failed attempts, human world is far from actions leading to solutions to the impending ecological crisis of the planet.  Exhaustive scientific acumen, meticulous conservation models, glamorous endorsements, million-dollar congregations, everything has failed to deliver justice to the environment; the need of the hour is sincere love for nature and wildlife and actions rooted in the motivation of compassion and love for nature. Nature conservation is to benefit the billions of life forms of this planet apart from human beings, the self – obsessed human minds will fail to deliver as conservationists until we put Nature first.

Sri. Soumyadeep Datta is a well-known name in the field of wildlife conservation, he is undeniably one of the finest environment activists of India who gave a new direction to the biodiversity conservation movement of Assam and Northeast India. Under his leadership, Nature’s Beckon, the most prominent environment activists’ group of Northeast India has led this biodiversity conservation movement for the past 4 decades, effecting the protection of the some of the richest native forests, wildlife and biodiversity of Northeast India. Years of unstinted advocacy of Nature’s Beckon for effective conservation measures has led to a significant shift in the political will towards forest and wildlife conservation from that of blatant ignorance to a receptive atmosphere in Assam. This green movement led by Nature’s Beckon has generated the motivation for a unique humanitarian movement, the values of altruism, empathy and voluntarism found a fresh ground to spread its roots through Nature’s Beckon. Sri. Soumyadeep Datta found a generous teacher in Late Kamal Narayan Choudhury; his philosophy, his myriad forest experiences and the unadulterated love for Nature instantly connected the young Soumyadeep Datta with the magnanimity of forests and wilderness. The seed of environment activism was planted in the young mind of Soumyadeep Datta by Late Kamal Narayan Choudhury, he was one of the strongest inspirations behind the genesis of Nature’s Beckon in early 1980s. The dynamic leadership of Sri. Soumyadeep Datta is a clear reflection of this pure motivation. Along with Sri. Datta this motivation has enriched the lives of many others who got connected with this inspiration and joined this movement to selflessly contribute towards nature conservation. This motivation clearly reflected in Late Kamal Narayan Choudhury’s concluding words, as he says, “It is high time to call a halt to man’s greed, demand, vanity and wasteful use of Nature’s bounty, if yet a fragment of raped and misused Nature is to be saved, and this call is urgent and imperative. It is the beacon of Nature. Heed it in time!”. These powerful confessions led us through one of the most significant environment movements ever witnessed in India. Material possessions and materialistic gains doesn’t last for too long, while spiritual insights and actions driven by feelings of compassion often contributes meaningfully to benefit many other lives beyond the limits of time and place. This truth is greatly honoured by these priceless confessions of Late Kamal Narayan Choudhury. His courage and humbleness in making these confessions immortalises him and his contribution to one of the most unique biodiversity conservation movements of India. These confessions also connect everyone with the truth that wealth, riches and material comforts are not necessarily evil impediments in our pursuit of higher – self, it all depends on our mind. Our thoughts, our quality of awareness builds our world, mind is the basis of motivation. His memories, his inspirations for wildlife conservation will live to eternity through each of our actions in commitment to the cause of environment protection and biodiversity conservation in India. Assam and Northeast India is particularly indebted to Late Kamal Narayan Choudhury for his foresight and inspiration which gave birth to Nature’s Beckon under the leadership of Sri. Soumyadeep Datta. Nature’s Beckon saved the forests of Assam from its doomed disappearance by mobilising the wildlife sanctuary movement with people’s participation in Assam in 1980s for the permanent protection of these native forests. This led to the successful creation of several protected areas in Assam which encompasses the Chakrashila WLS in western Assam to the Dihing Patkai NP in Upper Assam. This wildlife sanctuary movement led by Nature’s Beckon rescued the forests of Assam by giving permanent protection to them and securing their future. The birth of Nature’s Beckon in 1980s came as a divine intervention for the dwindling forests and natural resources of Assam, the sincere prayers of the nature lovers like Late Kamal Narayan Choudhury, deeply moved to ensure safeguard for the forests and wilderness of this country was answered by Nature’s Beckon. The organisation sowed the seed of selfless commitment towards nature conservation from its very beginning and today Nature’s Beckon is leading the biodiversity conservation movement of India with firm commitment to contribute meaningfully to the cause in future. I feel honoured to be part of this noble green movement called ‘Nature’s Beckon’. I feel blessed to be connected with the pure motivation for nature conservation, instilled in me and many of my compatriot green warriors by this rich legacy of love for nature handed over to us by someone like Late Kamal Narayan Choudhury. I pray to find enough courage and compassion to carry forward this priceless legacy to the future generations with befitting grace and determination. I remain ever grateful to Sri. Soumyadeep Datta for giving me this rare privilege of presenting these precious confessions to the world. I am extremely humbled to present ‘Confessions of a conservationist’ penned by Late Kamal Narayan Choudhury to the world today.

                                                       Confessions of a conservationist

                                                                                                                   -Kamala Narayan Choudhury

It was a time of plenty as there was utter paucity too. There were so many shikaris with plenty of firearms and ammunitions; seemingly it was believed that there was no dearth or diminishing of the games – predatory or innocent, carnivorous or ruminant. The grasslands, shrubs, forests were extensive, offering shelter and habitat to all the wildlife. They could avail protection in suitable cover and had plenty of food, fodder for subsistence and rearing offspring. Feathered life and fish were also plentiful under favourable conditions. Large aquatic animals like crocodiles and porpoises were not insignificant in number, though not so plentiful as the denizens of land and air. In short everything was in plenty.

But, alas! This plentitude has been reduced to alarming level; in some cases, to ruinous state, through the paucity of foresight, statistics, knowledge of ecology, lack of attention to environment and the want of love and admiring eyes for the Nature teeming with myriad hues, songs and fragrances. The Nature is essentially linked with all life processes of wildlife and of the mankind and their achievements.

It is a shame, a black spot on the civilisation of artificial creativity which attempts to vie with the bounteous, creative, benign Nature. Man is virtually undermining his Terra Firma with thoughtless activities. 

This belated and shameful confession relates to the period, about 60 years back, when this confessor was young and as it has been junctioned in the opening lines, there was a bumper condition in nearly every sphere. The hunters were indeed wanton, braggarts.

But they were not poachers – neither for the animal’s horns, tusks, claws, pelts. Their prime motive was sports in nature’s condition enjoying open air excursions. All they cared for were some meat and the trophy in horns and tusks. For these sporting hunters, Rhino horns or Elephant tusks held no attraction.

This confessor admits shooting predatory elephants in the Garo hills being invited by the Deputy Commissioner for planned reduction of the mature males which caused damage to crops, pulled down Garo dwellings on stilts, even killed men sometimes. These operations were necessary and planned for keeping the beasts under control.

Page 2

This confessor again admits of killing tigers, deer, hogs, some feathered games. He was a member in Shikar parties in vicinity of Lakhipur, on the banks of the river Jinjiram. He had hunted near Rongjuli in Garo Hills – Tiplai (Tiplang) Beel area which was notorious as a Tigerland. Understandably tigers abounded there, having shelters within the caves and crevices of the hills. The nearby forest and grassland maintained adequate numbers of deer, pigs, porcupine, rabbits to provide subsistence to the tiger. The Tiplai Beel completed the ideal set up for wildlife.

Again, he had been to Raidak (Rydak?) for shooting meet. Tigers, pigs, deer were bagged. Even an unusual shooting was indulged by bringing down flying peacocks.

These are recounted here not as vain glory brags of shikar adventures, but as sad, pitiful contrast between the then plentitude of games in full splendor of forests, grasslands and water sources. Now, the forests are apologetic thin relics, grasslands have vanished, the water has become polluted with poisonous insecticides.

There were luxuriant Elephant high Sowai grass undulating in breeze, providing shelter to big and medium animals like tiger, hog deer, pigs and small ones – porcupine, rabbits. The cover of tall grass provided the animals 70 percent chance to escape. The losing shikari was all the same happy if the game escaped in the tall grass. It may be alleged that numbers of these hunters having high power guns, ammunitions, elephants and shikar facilities might have been responsible for killing many animals. In spite of shooting the games, the shikaris were minor offenders, compared with those who denuded the forests and burnt down the tall grassland for cultivation. The then forests and lush grasslands were effective haven and habitat for the animals which could continue the species unabated with offspring.

When the grassland cover and forest were destroyed and cleared for agriculture and habitation, the death knell for wildlife was ruing. For the disturbed environment, the poor animals could have no shelter for living in safety nor the requisite condition for progenition because the wildlife is inextricably linked with forest and grassland.

page 3

The barren, burnt down earth is not only eye sore; it upsets the life process of the wild animals. The unsatiable demand for arable land, timber, minerals are a blind, monomaniac programme for current civilization. It has caused a vicious chain which would strangle itself and its protagonist – the mankind.  

After destroying the fair face of the earth, man is extending his profane hand to pollute the water and air – the elements which sustains all life. In the urban industrial regions, clash, diu, whirr noises accompanied by smoke, soot, noxious fumes, toxic waste discharges mar the peace, purity and serenity of Nature. The rural country side, yet innocent of these vices, has started dissemination of poisons through the insecticides and toxic chemicals for protection of the crop. By taking the poisoned insects, birds are variously affected – they die or the sick survivors lose reproductive function. The fish in streams and ponds are also poisoned when the insecticides and chemicals are washed by rain into the water sources. The dilute toxins may not immediately kill the fish. But the cumulative action of poisons has effect on the fertility organs of the fish. Particularly the water in the vicinity of Boro paddy land is tainted in this manner.

Now, the conservation projects are colourfully spread over the committee tables, but poor Nature’s colours, tunes, purity are vanishing under man’s ruthless, covetous touch. The outcome of the race between destruction and replenishment by human effort is grim and black. It is high time to call a halt to man’s greed, demand, vanity and wasteful use of Nature’s bounty, if yet a fragment of raped and misused Nature is to be saved, and this call is urgent and imperative. It is the beacon of Nature. Heed it in time!