The entangle over Dzuko valley and adjacent thickly forested ravine variously known as Kezoltsa/Koziiri/Kazing amongst the different tribes living in its vicinity is now becoming endemic. Almost at regular intervals, tensions reach a flashpoint between communities, in particular the Mao tribe and the group of southern Angami villages collectively known as Southern Angami Peoples’ Organisation, SAPO. This entangle has once again surfaced to cause bitterness between the communities in its vicinity, and in a broader sense even between Nagaland and Manipur to a degree. This is unfortunate. We have written about this on several occasion before, and we do not hesitate to say it yet again although at the risking repeating what we have said over and over again through the years. The first wisdom that all have to imbibe is that there are certain things nobody should not think of owning, and rather seek to belong to them. The beautiful Dzuko valley and the equally magnificent Kezoltsa/Koziiri/Kazing would qualify to be in this category – that is, unless anybody is thinking in terms of extractive commercial exploitation of the place. This strip of wild territory is at the moment uninhabited, pristine, breathtakingly beautiful and rich in biodiversity. If everybody were interested in allowing the place to remain in this ideal condition, why must anybody fight to have exclusive ownership over it. Why not allow it to be a joint and even universal heritage, forever adding to the richness of planet earth, the only home all of us have to share. Let everybody love it and reap its benefits only in terms of the mystical experience of immersing themselves and bathing in the immense and enriching sense of beauty the place provides. It will cause no harm to the place if only one person or the whole world loves it. The difference will only come about when even a single person thinks of owning or exploiting the place.
Indeed, true natural heritages should belong to the entire world. If at all this ecological hotspot has a spiritual owner, it must have to be the one who would rather leave it alone so it can in its isolation, remain beautiful forever, and not somebody who thinks in terms of exploiting it for personal benefit. British Economist E. F. Schumacher articulated this thought beautifully in his 1973 classic “Small is Beautiful” saying the modern consumerist world’s attitude to nature is all wrong. Even the terminology used in describing this relationship points to this he says. Nature therefore is to be “exploited” when it should have been about living in harmony with it, or at the most reaping its bounties. True to this unconscious statement of intent, the earth’s ecology today has suffered dangerously from over exploitation. It’s forest cover is depleting; species of plants and animals are disappearing at alarming rates; climate is changing for the worse threatening to no longer support life if the trend continues; rivers, lakes and even the seas are being emptied of fishes; as a consequence food and drinking water crises are looming everywhere. On the other hand, new strains of deadly viruses are surfacing at increasing frequencies; old viruses which have been tamed with antidotes too are mutating to become more dangerous to man; and the list of woes is endless. It will do well to remember, most of this have come about because modern man has been not content with living in harmony with nature, but has been out to “possess” and “exploit” it.
Of late there has been much talk of why Mt. Everest should be left alone, and expeditions to it closed forever or at least for a couple of decades. The knowledge that there is such a beautiful peak is itself beautiful even if unvisited, and also much better than its beauty destroyed by those who seek to in Schumacher’s sense “conquer” it. The realisation now amongst many mountaineers is that this annual “conquering” has done the beauty of Everest no good. Every year tons of not just bottles and other artificial climbing paraphernalia but also plain human excreta litter the base camps. The idea that prompted such a proposal is again the fatigue of the moral mind to “exploiting” and “conquering” nature. This should be the philosophy with which we approach the Dzuko issue too, and for that matter all other pristine forests, peaks and vales. Let it in spirit belong to every lover of beauty. The Mao and Southern Angami people are lucky to be born on the laps of such a beautiful place. Let them be custodians of the beauty and not owners of it. They can both reap the harvest of the popularity of the place together by being its joint keepers. Let the attitude not be of “exploiting” or “possessing” the place, and instead be of partaking together in its bounties. Let the place remain the vale in the wilderness where nature loving trekkers can come and have a feel of the beauty of the awesome silence and lonesomeness. Why build a road right into it or construct guest houses and hotels inside it and spoil it irreparably?
We will be the happiest if the Mao and Southern Angami people sit together and decide on leaving the valley alone. They can benefit together from the indirect revenues generated in terms of services provided to nature loving visitors, and this is not going to be insubstantial as the popularity of the place grows. We also suggest the Nagaland and Manipur government sit together to come to a similar resolve. Instead of fighting to possess it, they should be striving together to have the place declared a world heritage, therefore a treasure belonging to the entire world. The fillip such a status can give to the economy all the communities lucky to be living in its vicinity will be several folds more than extracting the valley’s natural resources directly and destructively. Remember King Solomon’s judgment. When two women claimed to be the mother of an infant, the wise king ruled that the child be cut in half and the two women be given a half each. One woman said yes the other was horrified and said no, and would rather have the other woman have the child. The king at once knew the woman who wanted the child unhurt and alive even if she were to lose possession of it was the real mother. There is a big lesson for all in this contest for Dzuko’s possession too.
Editor, Imphal Review of Arts and Politics and author