Y.S. RANA, HAMIRPUR (HP)—Laws are not based on faith but sometimes faith works better than the fear of law. While scores of laws are there still green cover is depleting but here in Himachal Pradesh, gods guard the forest wealth of the state. It is revealed in the findings of a research by the Institute of Integrated Himalayan Studies (IIHS), Shimla. According to the findings, 70 per cent of forests in five districts of Himachal Pradesh are guarded by the local gods and goddesses. The research is done in five districts—Shimla, Sirmour, Kinnaur, Kullu and Mandi—of the state.
The findings of the research paper titled “Socio-Religious Role of the Institution of Village Gods in the Western Himalayan Society,” have literally recognized the role played by faith and belief in gods in conservation of forests in the state. It states that 66 per cent respondents in the five districts said they did not cut even a single tree without the ‘permission’ of their gods. Fear of god’s wrath locals desist from cutting ‘Chir, Cypress, Kail, pines, papal or some other trees. Even the government has classified these as ‘Class A’ trees.
Commenting on the research Dr P.C. Sharma, officer in charge, Directorate of Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh and himself belongs to the area of Baba Balak Nath commented that communities in Himachal Pradesh believed that all Gods live in the forests. “However, when forest cover is depleting, Gods are losing ground to the evils of present day development. Still trees are venerated for the locals which protects the fauna and flora of Himachal Pradesh,” says he.
Dr Rattan Singh, senior research scholar at the Institute told that 56 per cent respondents of the five districts said they did not cut even a tree as they believed in Gods; four per cent fear god’s wrath and 28 per cent were undecided but continue to follow the faith of honoring gods. “Research makes an attempt to bring out the inherent environmental principles behind the conservation practices and intricate the bond of nature with local’s faith,” he said. For instance, the people of valley of Rohru believe that the forests solely belong to their gods. Stepping into these will evoke their anger. Hence, no one in the village has ever dared to go near the forests.
All successive governments in the state have played havoc with natural resources by using their powers freely to grant permission to use forest land for non-forestry activities, said the official of the government. In 2013 around 4080.23 ha of forest land diverted to other activities as per state forest department. The state government has granted permission to set up 180 power projects on over 4028 acres of forest land. During the past two decades government granted permission to fell trees on 10,500 hectare to lay power transmission lines. The government can only do 34 per cent aforestation in 2013.
The previous BJP government has approved 1334 cases involving 1116 hectares of land in 2011 alone, stated the official. Interestingly, the prices of private land are five to ten times more than that of the forest land.
The paper underscores the urgency of changing the modern lifestyles, of befriending nature and above all of returning to centuries-old wisdom traditions. While the forces of modern world are depleting forests and weakening the faith that conserve these, the restoration of people’s faith is of paramount importance, said Dr Rattan Singh.