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Dibang Sanctuary to be notified as a tiger reserve; Arunachal’s Idu Mishmi community protests

In December 2012, the local Idu Mishmi people saw 3 tiger cubs in the Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh.

By Shishir Agrawal
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dibang tiger reserve

हिंदी में पढ़ें | In December 2012, the local Idu Mishmi people saw 3 tiger cubs in the Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh. People immediately informed the Forest department. But, this case was bigger and more nuanced than that. The presence of tigers in the valley was a completely new thing for the people and the administration here. According to the government, this was the first time when the presence of a tiger was recorded in this valley. Then, further investigation took place and the government decided that it would convert the Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary into a Tiger Reserve. This wasn’t good news for the local tribal community of the Idu Mishmi people. Hence, they started protesting against it.

Who is Idu Mishmi?

Dibang valley,Arunachal, India is home to lush green forests, mighty rivers, rare-endemic wildlife, indigenous Idu Mishmi community | Twitter/nahluwalia20

Idu Mishmi is an aboriginal tribe that is part of the Mishmi group. Two other tribes, Digaru and Miju, come under this group. This tribe got its name from the Mishmi Valley adjacent to Tibet. According to the 2011 census, their number is around 12 thousand. This tribe also has a cultural relationship with nature and wildlife. Hunting is their traditional work like most tribes, but killing many animals is prohibited due to the belief associated with animals. Tiger is one of them. According to the belief of the Mishmis, the tiger, and their origin are from the same mother. Hence, they treat the tiger as an 'elder brother'. Their language 'Mishmi' has been declared endangered by UNESCO. 

What is the plan to make a tiger reserve?

In 2014, the Wildlife Institute of India and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) recorded the presence of tigers in the valley through camera traps. According to the study, the presence of 11 tigers has been recorded in a radius of 336 square kilometers in this valley. This study is being used as primary evidence and argument for making a tiger reserve. In the year 2022, in a meeting of NTCA, it was decided to make Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary a Tiger Reserve. On the occasion of 50 years of the Tiger Project, NTCA chief SP Yadav said that he wants to increase the number of existing tiger reserves (53). A notification would be issued soon for Guru Ghasidas of Chhattisgarh and Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary of Arunachal Pradesh.

If it becomes a tiger, then it will be the largest tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh in terms of the number of tigers. Apart from this, it will be the first high-altitude tiger reserve in India. According to the ministry, the area of this reserve will be 4149 square kilometers, which is the largest in India. That is, it will be the largest tiger reserve in terms of area as well.

Why is there opposition to the project?

This project is being opposed by the Idu Mishmi Cultural and Literary Society, a cultural organization of the community. The committee says that they had registered their protest from the time of the proposal to make a Wildlife sanctuary and now the government is going to make it a Tiger Reserve. The people of the community believe that after it becomes a Tiger Reserve, their rights to the forest will be further limited, which will affect their livelihood.

Issuing a press note, the committee has accused the government of not following the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act and the Land Acquisition Act. The members of the committee say that under the Wild Protection Act and Forest Rights Act, the government should have held a meeting with the local people before taking this decision, but they have not done so. In the press note the committee said that, 

“We would like to remind everyone that a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Gauhati High Court of Itanagar permanent bench, and the matter was disposed of with a direction to the state government to address the issues and make a report with the help of a committee, including locals.”

This committee of local people also questioned the intention of the government. Referring to Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh itself, he said, 

“Namdapha Tiger Reserve (NTR) was declared in 1983 and as of now there is hardly any tiger in the Namdapha Tiger Reserve, what was the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) conserving all these forty years? Where is the fund gone, Can the National Tiger Conservation Authority justify the amount of expenditure incurred for protecting the Tigers ni Namdapha Tiger Reserve and still coming out with hardly any tiger population ni Namdapha Tiger Reserve? What were they protecting? Can the Chief Wildlife Warden answer these questions? Why do we need to conserve the Tiger in our Mishmi Land when it is conserved naturally through our beliefs and cultural practices that strongly forbid the hunting of tigers?”

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