Bishnois Preserve Biodiversity

The Bishnois of Haryana stand by their forefathers’ vows of protecting their environment. Between the 15th and 16th century, Guru Jambheshwar founded Bishnoism in Rajasthan, and his followers spread through North India and what is now Pakistan. Bishnoism constitutes a unique mix of Hinduism and Islam, with compassion for all living things at the heart of it. 29 sacred rules form the base of the cult, and eight of these refer to the preservation of flora and fauna. They include not eating meat, not felling trees, providing shelter to animals, refraining from inflicting harm on other living beings etc. In today’s video, Satyawan Varma shows us a glimpse of this aspect of Bishnoi life. The Bishnoi community in Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab consist of a substantial number of people. Satyawan came across Bishnois near his village in Haryana, and found their relationship with the environment unique and admirable, especially in today's times. He tells Video Volunteers, “The Bishnoi people here have large areas of land together. They allow animals and birds to thrive on their farms and grasslands, safe from the threat of hunters.”  Though these deer and birds often damage their crops, Bishnois acknowledge the fact that they are helpless creatures and are always ready to forgive and forget. They may not be financially well off, but that is a secondary concern compared to the caring of their biodiversity. Bishnois also refrain from felling trees for firewood, and use dried cow dung patties as fuel instead. Bishnoi people have been an important part of Jeev Raksha Committees in North India, and strive to provide stronger protection for wild animals. They are very active against hunters and poachers, and as one man from the Bishnoi community puts it, “We will kill our own children but we will not let anyone harm our animals.” After mass protests by Bishnois, Hindi film actor Salman Khan was sentenced to five years in prison for shooting Blackbucks antelopes. Former Indian cricketer Mansur Ali Khan also faced a criminal sentence for killing a blackbuck. The outrage of the Bishnoi community at these two incidents were what brought them to light in mainstream media and ensured that justice be sought for. Community correspondent Satyawan Varma hopes that other communities and societies take after the Bishnois. “Natural disasters like heavy rainfall and draughts are as harmful if not worse than having one’s crops damaged by animals and birds. People must allow these creatures freedom to roam their lands, acknowledging the fact that they are helpless and shall only survive if we provide them with the compassion and love like we do for our children.” - Rajyashri Goody

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