Singing his way through rejuvenation

The view is panoramic and breathtaking. And why? Santhali folk singer Naren Hansda is responsible as he continues singing his way through rejuvenation.

Why Hansda is singing his way through rejuvenation

The lap of Ajodhya Hills in the Purulia district of West Bengal presents a panoramic view, with a variety of flora covering its vast landscape. Lush green trees of banyan, neem, teak, palm, peepul and others dot the southern end of the Ajodhya hills which were barren until about a decade back. That wilderness rocked the consciousness of Santhali folk singer Naren Hansda, who initiated an afforestation drive with the help of orphaned children to revive the area’s natural ecosystem. 

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It was his efforts as he started and continued singing his way through rejuvenation that this locality is seeing the form that it is today. Today, many species of birds and animals have returned for shelter to the new forest around the Bhalidungri village of Purulia.

Born and brought up in village Jahajpur of Purulia district, Hansda, 47, quit studies and left home in 2012 for his first love – music. His community, the Santhals, are members of the scheduled tribe, largely concentrated in Jharkhand, Bihar, Tripura, Odisha and West Bengal.

The singer-turned-green activist settled at Bhalidungri village where he saw that rocks and boulders from the hills were being taken away by some villagers for construction. Instead of stopping them, he started planting saplings every morning. He knew his strategy of singing his way through rejuvenation was an apt way to revive the region.  

When little hands also helped

Some tribals raised objections but Hansda overlooked them. His relentless efforts caught the attention of the forest rangers. They unofficially encouraged him by distributing free saplings. And so, a little forest revolution took roots. Again, what came to the forefront was that Hansda continued singing his way through rejuvenation.

He led a five-member team, all aged between 5 and 10, for his mission green. Their routine was to wake up early in the morning, carry a litre of water, walk up to a hilltop about half a kilometre away and water the sapling planted the previous day before putting a new one into the soil.

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“My children are very energetic. They never get tired of plantation activities,” says Hansda.

The Forest Range Officer deputed at Arsha Range Purulia Division confirms Hansda’s claim. “The team led by Naren has covered around 3-hectare of our forest land. They have planted several local species. More important than plantation is its protection. That’s what they have been doing,” said the officer, requesting anonymity.

Protecting the environment through music

Hansda adopted a unique method for generating awareness among the tribal villagers. He applied local resources as well as natural resources to spread the message of saving plants.

They also tied placards with slogans written at various locations to catch the attention of the passersby. 

Some of the interesting slogans read – Gach Bachao (save the trees), Gach Banchele Paribesh Bachbe, Paribesh Banchle Manus Bachbe (if the tree survives, the environment will survive; and if environment survives, people will survive); Ekdin Gacher Phal Kheye Manus Benche Chilo, Tai Sobai Gach Lagoa (once upon a time, people survived by eating fruits of the tree, so everyone should plant a tree).

“Parents and students share the onus of protecting trees. They monitor the forest from time-to-time,” he says.

Things become challenging when villagers don’t understand the importance of a tree. Some tribes set fire on the nearby bushes to keep snakes and scorpions away during this March and April. The fire spread rapidly across the jungle and burnt many trees.

“Hansda has succeeded in putting an end to the bushfire. He walked through several villages along with his children and changed their perception with Santhali folk music,” says Sanjit Goswami, a local scribe.

Hansda’s street songs were mainly focused on how bushfire engulfs full-grown trees. He conveyed the strong environmental message through music that ‘never set jungles afire; plant trees for existence’. 

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