This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Hazaribagh Exploited: Tourism, History and Culture; Or Just Coal

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Mihir Vatsa:

There are two kinds of people when it comes to their hometown: the first kind would dismiss any chance of recognition- be it political, social, historical or cultural; while the second kind would strive to see the hidden nuances in each aspect. Unfortunately, I belong to the second kind. Through this narrative, I intend to present before the world, a rather neglected town named Hazaribagh in the Indian state of Jharkhand; explain how Hazaribagh is significant in three distinct ways- Tourism, History and Culture; and underline the challenges which this town currently faces to exist as the propagator of any of the before mentioned categories.

If one may search this town on internet and follow what Wikipedia has to say, then etymologically, Hazaribagh means ‘a land of thousand gardens’ and was considered ‘a popular health resort’. Somehow or the other, these two descriptions only deepen the wound which has already been inflicted upon this unfortunate town. For first, there are no gardens as such now, and second, the health resort is lost. These two definitions would have worked quite well if we lived in either colonized India or till the time when Hazaribagh was still a part of Bihar. On 15th October, 2000, Bihar was divided to form a new state with certain promises- Jharkhand. Happy with this division and hoping a better future for the new state people came out on streets singing ‘ab khahiye sakarkand, alag bhel Jharkhand’. The glory was quite short lived though- especially when it came to Hazaribagh. In the succeeding sections, I shall explain exactly why.

Hazaribagh is geographically located at an average altitude of 2019 ft., on the Chhotanagpur Plateau. This altitude in turn attributes to the rather pleasant climatic condition throughout the year. One can feel the ‘gulabi thandak’ while entering Hazaribagh- crossing stretches of valleys, rivers, seasonal waterfalls and quite a number of lakes. Also, Hazaribagh Wildlife Sanctuary -which was a National Park once- welcomes the travellers coming from north. If history be trusted, then tourists from the states like West Bengal, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh were counted as the regular visitors of this little town which promised them solace and tranquillity. F.B. Bradley-Brit, in his book ‘Chhotanagpur- A Little Known Province of the Empire’ (1903), said: ‘If there is a heaven on earth this is it, this it, this it…’

I guess, if Brit were alive now, he would have readily taken his words back. There are hardly any forests left. The temperatures soar high like never before, the lakes almost dry up during summers and the moment one steps out of Hazaribagh town, a thick gust of coal dust welcomes them. So where did it go wrong? Is it mining? But doesn’t mining strengthen the economy… after all we all need minerals, don’t we? Or is it population? But again, one can’t stop people from reproducing or settling down in a region, can they? Or is it Urbanisation? But then we need malls, and multiplexes… Mumbai has those, why can’t Hazaribagh? These questions are not really issues as these ‘issues’ only construct a culture. We need coal to make trains run, we need people as they make a society, and we also need urbanisation as we can’t expect ourselves to live in thatched roof and attend haats to buy vegetables: after all, we all work, earn money and reserve the right to live in whatever way we wish. The problem is in connection. These issues, which are also the building blocks of a country need to be connected in a balance. Sadly, it seems a utopia; and sadly Hazaribagh is bearing the after effects of this derailed utopian dream.

Hazaribagh is not merely a town- it is a ‘health resort’, a historical city and a cultural junction. I shall briefly explain all the three categories I just divided my hometown into. Health resort– a title earned because of its verdant surroundings, the fact that it is a hill station. Hill station. No, I do not ask the reader to compare it with famous places like Manali or Lansdowne but consider that the topology is basically of a plateau- and plateaus do not have lofty peaks. There are forests, still; lakes, still; waterfalls, still; a somewhat cooler climate as compared to the neighbouring places, still. Maybe the biggest blow to this aspect of Hazaribagh is deforestation done in the name of ‘development’. I find it hard to drive my car through a silly two lane highway- let’s make it a four lane! Sure, go ahead; but what about all the trees I would cut? The country needs coal- let’s mine the whole forest, no one lives here anyway. Sure, suit your interest; but where would this country get water from if there is no rain? The problem with Hazaribagh, or to say, a majority of such townships, is that there is no one to answer these contrasting questions. Trees can’t speak, who cares? Forests just occupy land, what a waste? The life continues. The ‘health resort’ just watches its own destruction… maybe shed a tear or two.

Megaliths at Punkree Barwadih

Hazaribagh is also a historical city. No, I do not make this claim; but the ancient rock art sites, prehistoric shelters and megalithic complexes which die in the backyard would surely suggest so. In the Karanpura valley of Hazaribagh region- a region which lies under the danger of being mined out for coal someday or the other- all the three evidences of history stand; unnoticed by the government, unnoticed by the ASI, unnoticed by the ‘mainstream’ population. Reason? They belong to the tribal civilization. Tribals. Tribal population has anyway been the most difficult factor to deal with, for an authority, whenever it has come to something which it categorizes as ‘development’. The refusal of the tribals to surrender their lands for the Posco plant in Orissa, or the refusal of the tribals to surrender their lands for NTPC mining project in the Karanpura Valley are just a few examples to take. Authority says: ‘Take the money, give the land’ and tribals say: ‘what would we do with this money when we are not educated enough to get jobs? This money would disappear in a few years, then what?’ I will not indulge more in describing such conflicts but my intention to bring this scenario in the fore light was just to show that tribals, or the marginalized, or the minority, are still subjected to the trauma of various policies which posses the calibre to demolish their whole existence.

If these cases happen even today, how can one expect the authority to protect their history? Maybe the biggest misfortune of the tribal population is the fact that they live just above the riches mineral belts in India. I shall take the liberty to cite a few examples here, probably to make it clear that my assertions are not based on loose grounds. The megalithic complex at a village called Punkree Barwadih is maybe the finest stone observatory erected by the ancient tribals; the problem being, this complex stands in the mining area of NTPC. Just recently an Australian mining company Theiss was awarded the contract to mine whole of this region but no step has been taken by the ASI to protect this thirty five hundred years old history of megalithic civilization. The rock art site at the village named Isco, some forty five kilometres from the district headquarters of Hazaribagh, is expected to date back to 9500 BCE but the tourism department of Jharkhand government is hardly aware of such an existence. If this be the case that they are really unaware of this site, then I believe this article shall make them aware, and they would work for its respectful recognition; if this be not the case, then this article shall plainly show their ignorant attitude towards such historical artefacts, and sites.

As I had previously stated, Hazaribagh is a township which offers a cultural junction between the Tribal culture and the Aryan culture. There is no need to explain what Aryan culture really is considering the ‘mainland’ population practices the same. I would shed some light on the Tribal culture of Hazaribagh instead by taking two art forms in consideration. These two art forms are known as Sohrai and Khovar. Sohrai is a harvest art which follows during the time of Sohrai festival. Sohrai festival takes place near about the same time when Hindus celebrate Diwali. The art form is matriarchal and its murals symbolise natural instances- mainly flora and fauna. There is indeed a reason behind this. Tribals of Hazaribagh live in forests and the influences show directly in Sohrai art. Khovar, on the other hand, is again matriarchal and its murals symbolise fertility in marriage. It is, in a crude sense, marriage art. There are many villages which practice these two art forms but lie in the interior parts of Hazaribagh. These art forms carry the essence of the culture with them and if a healthy union of the Tribal and the Aryan culture is made possible, then Hazaribagh shall emerge as a region harboring the symbiosis of two cultures very much different to each other. Again, for that, an active participation from the government is required.

Since my intention behind this narrative was just to reflect the plight of Hazaribagh in the present situation, I shall not deviate into other topics which also demand proper attention and research. For this article, I had chosen to explain Hazaribagh as three possible regions- Hazaribagh as a tourist spot, Hazaribagh as a historical city and Hazaribagh as a cultural junction. In conclusion, I shall only say that an article like this, cynical in its approach it may be, only tries to uncover what lies behind the veil. I, as a Tourism Activist myself, may see Hazaribagh in three different lights but this would remain a region which has been shifting its focus throughout the history. The present would fail to consider Hazaribagh as a ‘health resort’; the mining companies would fail to consider Hazaribagh as a ‘historical city’; the ‘mainstream’ would fail to consider Hazaribagh as a ‘cultural junction’. An outsider would only see Hazaribagh as a town burning in the flames of black diamond… nothing else.

The author is a third year student of English Literature in University of Delhi; a writer and an independent Tourism Activist in Hazaribagh.

You must be to comment.
  1. Reena Prasad

    A thought provoking write. It is good to see the younger generation raise a strong voice against exploitation of a land and its people. I wouldn’t even consider this voice as ‘cynical’ for it is a desperate cry for help for the voiceless land , the silent trees and the long- exploited environment. Look at the broader picture— the same is happening everywhere else too -in different ways , for different gains but the fact remains –that Mihir has raised a very pertinant issue and in strongly-worded terms too! Well done!

  2. Mihir Vatsa

    Thank you Reena. I hope in coming days (years maybe) I’ll be able to propagate the need to restore Hazaribagh among broader audience/readers. Right now, we have this facebook group, and page titled ‘Tales of Hazaribagh’ which you may join.

    Also, to know about Hazaribagh visit this website/blog:

    http://talesofhazaribagh.wordpress.com/

    Thanks. 🙂

  3. Rit Joshi

    Wah Mihir. That story touched me in more ways than one. Hazaribagh n Dehradun being identical in many respects…altitude, eco-sensitivity….etc. And UK n JK being new states…seems like people are always taken for a ride by the rogues that design the insane driving manual…

    1. Mihir Vatsa

      Thanks Rit. Yes, the situation is somewhat similar, I agree. Whenever I visit Dehra, I always feels like I have come to Hazaribagh or Ranchi. Totally understandable.

  4. Makarand Mahajan

    It is evident from the very first line,how much passion Mihir has for his hometown.
    Its shameful that the mainstream has forgotten the plight of towns like Hazaribagh that are precariously perched on the edge of losing their traditional identity.
    I wish him the very best of luck in his ongoing crusade.
    🙂

    1. Mihir Vatsa

      Thanks Makarand. 🙂

  5. bulu imam

    good work Mihir. Keep it up. I am always there if you need me.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Chandrakant Shukla

By SGT University

By Prashant Pawar

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below