The Calcutta Telegraph reported last Friday that a Birhor village in Jharkhand State has been closely involved with a natural inventory project known as the People’s Bio-diversity Register (PBR).

The PBR documents the natural and human ecology of villages in India. It includes the lifestyles of the people, their socio-economic conditions, and the flora and fauna of the communities. It is a national program that seeks to organize information about the ecosystem as it is perceived by rural residents who live close to the land: fishers, farmers, hunters, and gathering peoples. The database the program is building concentrates on the conservation of natural resources, and it emphasizes the traditional knowledge, utilization, and protection of nature by local residents.

A local schoolteacher involved with the inventory in the Birhor village, Ashutosh Mairh, praised the villagers for their effective involvement in the project. “We know only 25 per cent of the earth and its people, the rest is unknown to us. Hence, we are trying to study this part of our state. We came to know a lot of unique things from the Birhors, known for their magical sense of nature,” he told the paper.

The team doing the study included three academics from universities in Jharkhand plus six students from Mr. Mairh’s school. The teacher expressed surprise about the extensive Birhor knowledge of their roots, plants, and herbs. The team made a film about the community, called “Samvedna” (compassion).

The newspaper article mentions that the Naxalites, a Maoist guerrilla movement that is terrorizing a lot of rural eastern India, has been active nearby. Recent news coverage of the Naxalites reports that assassinations, murders, and violence committed against rural villages that do not accept their orders are continuing.

A news story from Jharkhand on Tuesday last week chronicles the way they assassinate people who oppose them. On Saturday, April 12, the Maoists gunned down the headman of a tribal village in Orissa State. Apparently he had made the mistake of refusing to supply the guerillas with the food and support they demanded. The rural horror in parts of India seems to be endless.