[India] Fighting for Jharkhand’s tribal heritage amidst threats of coal mining- Bulu Imam’s incredible story – by Sneh Singh (Your Story.com – June 6, 2017)

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Once a big-game hunter, Bulu Imam has been an environmental and tribal activist and a revivalist of tribal painting. Now, he plans to set up a museum and research centre in Hazaribagh.

On the fringes of Hazaribagh in Jharkhand, one can find a colonial house enclosed by lush green trees and bushes. In this serene environment, reading perched on an arm chair is 74-year-old Bulu Imam.

Bulu is a treasure unfamiliar to many. A big-game-hunter-turned-environmentalist, he is also an archaeologist, a revivalist of tribal paintings, and the winner of the International Peace Award by the Gandhi Foundation for his humanitarian work. Today, with his son Gustav Imam, plans to set up a museum and research centre in Hazaribagh.

Presently, he runs a museum and art gallery, ‘The Sanskriti Centre’. He has also authored several research papers and books. Bulu’s life has been a somewhat enthralling journey. As a big-game hunter in the ’60s and ’70s, Imam hunted 19 elephants and many man-eating tigers.

The grandson of Indian High Court judge and India’s Congress President Sir Syed Hasan Iman, his early life was spent organising tiger hunts with his father in the region of Jharkhand, earlier southern Bihar. He was then also closely associated with the forest as well the tribals.

His life took a turn in 1979, as Bulu recalls, “It was on a journey around the state with British traveller-writer Mark Shand and his elephant when I saw the destruction of thick forest for coal mining by the state.”

Sipping his black coffee, Bulu asserts, “This land of coalfield bed has been the home of millions of tribal people, who lived there for centuries. With coal mining, there was not just the destruction of the environment and displacement of tribals but also a loss of culture. Apart from their livelihood being affected, they worship sacred rocks there, which are also megaliths, some even dating back to before 2000 BC” He then quit hunting in order to save the deteriorating tribal culture amidst coal mining.

Bulu’s affinity for tribal culture dates back to his tiger-hunting days, when he visited the village. He also has two tribal wives. Consequently, in the face of the annihilation of this culture, he dedicated his life to saving it. He became a strong propagator for tribals and wildlife in the North Karanpura Valley against open cast mining. He also brought attention to the need for protecting corridors for elephants and tigers to have distinct habitats.

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