Real heroes are not those who fight with their fists and injure the opponent. Real heroes are those who fight with determination and bring about a social change. Jamuna Tudu is one such hero who is working towards saving the jungles in her state for close to two decades now.
She and her collective of women activists have conserved 50 hectares of forest land around her village to this date. Tudu fights without fear of the jungle mafia and the Naxalites in the region. And she has the ability to take on even the state if she has to, to save trees.
Tudu talked to SheThePeople.TV about her journey, her struggle and her achievements through it all.
I got married in 1998 and came to my husband’s house. Soon after, all the women of Maturkham village in Purbi Singhbhum district of Jharkhand, including my family members, took me to the jungle to get wood. I went there for a few days but it was very unsettling for me. Then I thought it is such a beautiful jungle and if we conserve it, it will be a great thing. I was 17 then.
Actually, I grew up in a place which only has mountains and rarely any plants or trees in Odisha. But my father used to sow seeds on whatever land we had. He used to take me and my brother to the land and pamper us with lentil and rice when we were young. And that memory stuck with me. Eventually, my father became one of the biggest inspirations for why I do what I do today.
When we started with our mission, the jungle mafia was angry and tried to threaten us. But we did not falter and made a small collective—Van Suraksha Samiti–to preserve the jungles
After making up my mind, we did a meeting about conservation of plants in the village with other women. Initially, people were very reluctant. My own family members said no one will help in this, but I was positive and I always said that we must keep trying. So we kept calling people for meetings and kept getting dejected.
Then five to six women joined me and then all of us decided to survey the jungles every day. We carried a wooden stick, one water bottle and a few dogs to go on rounds of the jungle thrice a day every day.
When we started with our mission, the jungle mafia got angry and tried to threaten us. But we did not falter and made a small collective—Van Suraksha Samiti–to preserve the jungles.
Today, we have 200 women who help us in our fight of awareness and conservation of jungles.
CORRUPTION IN WOOD INDUSTRY
There is a railway station in Jharkhand which exports Sal timber to Bengal. So we wrote a letter to the ticket master asking for help to stop this export of wood from the jungles, but he didn’t help us. We also went to the exporters and tried to explain that it was wrong to cut trees. But they retorted saying it’s none of my business. Many men came at that time and threw stones on us and abused us. I suffered a lot, but I still felt strongly about saving the jungles and continued my work.
Generally, we patrol the jungles thrice, but sometimes we have to go around at nights also when the mafia try to set fire to the forests. They do this to vandalise and show their vengeance.
I don’t have children, but I consider all plants and trees as my children
I felt scared in the beginning but then I thought that if we keep getting scared, then we won’t be able to save the jungles and fight against corruption in this industry. Today, neither the ministers nor Naxalites can scare me.
I have sent at least five to six miscreants to jail, which is why now they feel scared of me. People in eastern Jharkhand call me Jungle Queen and Lady Tarzan with love and affection.
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‘PLANTS ARE MY CHILDREN’
I don’t have children, but I consider all plants and trees as my children. I also tie a rakhi on every Raksha Bandhan and take a pledge that we will go on protecting them.
Jamuna’s efforts led to the Forest Department adopting her village. This helped in enabling a water connection and construction of a school in Maturkham.
In 2014, she received the Godfrey Phillips Bravery Award in the ‘Acts of Social Courage’ category. She runs awareness campaigns through various forest committees in Kolhan division. Even the President of India has recognized her efforts and awarded her for it.
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