by Nita Shashidharan
“O! Who does this land belong to my friend? Are they rich or poor, all the same or different?
Does it belong to us humans, or the other animals, or even water who may take over the land?
I walked in my neighbourhood, and what did I see, huge houses, and so much more for company
The land here has been concretized, brick by brick, thatches and patches, swanky cars, curly roads
We worry there is no space for the right to breathe clean air, clean water, even retain greens.
“O! Who does this land belong to my friend? Do they walk on two’s, or four’s, or do they fly?”
Does it belong to that man who owns umpteen bullocks, who recruits the landless in his farms?
I walked in a rural village, and what did I see, land holdings large and small, houses big and tiny
The land here has been toiled on, men and women till the land as farmers or wage labourers
We worry if the rains are going to fail us yet again, worry for the right to manage our livelihood.
“O! Who does this land belong to my friend? Have you seen their titles, are they entitled to?”
Does it belong to the biodiversity, the commoner, the government, or has it been privatized?
I walked in a protected forest, and what did I see, flora and fauna, water, fire, use and misuse
The land is guarded; some of the rivers run clean, the invasives run amock, human use restricted
We worry about who is kept out, who is allowed in, who are the winners, who are the losers.
“O! Who do these lands belong to my friend? Did you know so many people are fighting for it?”
The city, the rural, the greens and more, land cover and land uses intricately linked to the core
I drove across all these at a stretch, and what did I see, humans and ecosystems, spaces and places
These lands and their people have so much of history, mysteries to unravel, stories to be uncovered
We worry about the change and the impact it has, worry about the dilemmas of land and rights.
About the Author:
Nita Shashidharan is a PhD student at ATREE. She is currently studying the changing patterns in forest-agricultural dynamics and its relationship to provisioning ecosystem services under climatic variability and institutional dynamics in the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu. She has a keen interest in science communication, teaching, and often contemplates about the state of education and researchers in India.