Golden jubilee of the ‘Nature’s Beckon movement’
- Novanita Sharma
An unusual journey began in the late 1970s in Dhubri, a lesser-known town in Assam. No one knew that this journey led by the motivation of pure love of a youngster for Mother Nature, was to carve a new direction, a whole new perspective for the future of Assam. Yes indeed, this is the journey of Nature’s Beckon and the dynamic youngster of 1970s is Soumyadeep Datta, the Founder – Director of Nature’s Beckon. Sri. Datta, raised amidst the verdant forests of erstwhile undivided Goalpara district epitomise the legacy of vibrant ecological history of Assam where human and wildlife co-existed, their habitats merged and conflicts were unheard of. Sri. Datta formed Nature’s Beckon in late 1970s, taking his family and friends as its first members. This was a time when people in Assam were completely unaware of the notion of ‘wildlife conservation’, to talk about it is to call for self-ridicule and utter disbelieve. It is hard for today’s youth to relate with the uphill road taken by Sri. Datta and his initial supporters, who had to gain trust and support from people for the cause of wildlife conservation in the backdrop of political turmoil and the violent backlashes of insurgency in Assam. The forests of our forefathers were considered dangerous not because of wild beasts but for being the infamous hideouts of militant groups, the rich wildlife and forests of Assam witnessed the second wave of massive destruction after the colonial era exploitation. The devastated Manas NP of 1980s stood as one of the worst examples of this era of devastation and mayhem in Assam. In this dark period, the quiet and resolute movement of Nature’s Beckon grew as a beacon of hope for Assam. Along with the forests and wildlife, the youth of Assam found a rare model of leadership in young Soumyadeep Datta. Amidst the tumultuous period of mid-20th century Assam, he unfailingly stood as one of the youngest flag bearers of positive change in Assam and NE India. The journey of Nature’s Beckon since its inception in late 1970s followed by formal registration in 1982 and the uninterrupted journey ahead, takes one through an eventful passage of time. This journey conjures the diverse adversities, steep antagonism and continuous challenges faced by the organization in its zealous effort to protect the native forests of Assam through effective advocacy, awareness and people’s participation. This journey gave birth to one of India’s first successful community conservation model for forest conservation with the creation of Chakrashila WLS in 1994. This involved more than a decade of people’s movement under the leadership of Nature’s Beckon, for permanent protection of this tract of pristine hill forests of western Assam as a wildlife sanctuary. Wildlife conservation, forest conservation, biodiversity conservation happened to Assam because of the progressive leadership and environment activism of people like Soumyadeep Datta. The forests in Assam would have vanished in oblivion without our knowledge if activism and advocacy didn’t take place for its protection during the volatile mid-20th century Assam, by the brave changemakers like Soumyadeep Datta. Nature’s Beckon’s drive to facilitate the creation of a network of protected areas in Assam through people’s participation, led to permanent protection of major forest areas all over Assam. Few of these movements are of significant importance for the conservation history of India, like the Rainforest conservation movement led by Nature’s Beckon which eventually led to creation of the Dehing Patkai NP in 2021. The 3 decades long people’s movement for protection of the last surviving lowland rainforest patch of Assam is globally significant, it earned respect from nature lovers all over the world. Nature’s Beckon completed 40 years of this journey in June, 2022. In this 40 years, Nature’s Beckon led a unique people’s movement in NE India for protection of the native forests and rich biodiversity of this region. Nature’s Beckon emerged as the most prominent name in the field of biodiversity conservation from this region. The organisation leads the biodiversity conservation movement of India with its leading trail across one of the richest biodiversity rich areas of the world. This journey of Nature’s Beckon is one of the most well documented movements of India, this journey has given rise to a green literary movement in Assam. Countless books, booklets, other educational materials published by Nature’s Beckon have led the green literary movement of Assam. This literary movement sowed the seeds of a new intellectual perspective, added a new dimension to the collective public psyche of Assam. Sri. Datta, one of the most respectable names in the field of wildlife conservation in India is true inspiration for the future generations of India. His steadfast commitment and unwavering efforts to protect the forests of this region have been the core strength of this unique nature conservation movement of Assam and NE India. His dreams became vision, his love for wilderness and nature the strongest motivation behind these 40 years long journey of Nature’s Beckon. Nature’s Beckon commemorated the completion of this 40 years by announcing its futuristic 10 years celebratory program on 4th June, 2022. A book titled, ‘Prakriti Sahitya aru Nature’s Beckon’, edited by Sri. Pankaj Kumar Dutta, was formally inaugurated to mark the launch of Nature’s Beckon’s golden jubilee celebration mission. The next 10 years will involve more people, more young minds in dynamic programs to connect and contribute to the cause of biodiversity conservation and environment protection in Assam and NE India, thus propelling the future generations towards a meaningful bond with Nature and this planet. This will include a massive program involving school students from all over Assam, targeting capacity building of future leaders and nation builders who will contribute effectively in creating a more compassionate, more peaceful world in future. This purposeful 10 years is in celebration of the 50th year of the ‘Nature’s Beckon movement’, to be completed in 2032.