Humans are in some way or another depended on animals, but then there are some communities who are completely depended on wild animals.
A snake keeping community – called the Kalbeliya’s and a traditional wild animals hunting community- Mogya’s, both are mainly found in Rajasthan. After the wildlife protection laws of1972 was introduced, their traditional professions turned illegal and the community began to get pushed in the shady corner of the society for their basic survival. The main stream societies started considering them as negative elements, especially the law makers and law implementers since then have been considering them as a threat for the declining wildlife and nature. On the other hand, the deep rooted culture and practices have never been discarded by the rural India, they have the same faith and cultural value in their society so their existence is largely unharmed; however lawmakers and wildlife class are always unhappy and over concerned about their traditional profession which can be a harm for the shrinking wildlife. Wildlife traders and increased international demand for wildlife body parts have surely turned them more treacherous towards wild animals, earlier they would hunt only what they needed but today there is no end to the need for a rich society which is demanding these wildlife articles from them, for this they may get peanuts from the middlemen dealing with them but that is another issue left to discuss. they are excellent wildlife trackers, skilled shooters and thus these communities are being used in the organised wildlife crime, they slowly slithered in the illegal wildlife trade being the only vulnerable yet powerful connection between the riches need and the fragile wild.
In the past 10 years, two experiment would start a change in these two communities - Mogya and Kalbeliya. A famous wildlife activist and journalist Bahar Datt, has been instrumental in changing things for the Snake Charmers. She documented the impact of Kalbeliya community activity on snakes and nature. Hundred snake charmers were gathered by her and they took them for a cultural program to Italy – this was their first exposure to the outside world where they were greeted with warmth and applauded. The single program made a remarkable perception change in the community they still remember it as an epic story of their community and always feel proud that world is ready to listen to them.
The Mogya community on the other hand was given an interesting opportunity to change their lives, 40 children from the community are living and studying in a hostel by Tiger Watch in Ranthambhore. Three children are now doing industrial training thus learning a specialized skill which will lead them towards a new livelihood. The parents feel proud about their children’s academic progress and more and more want them to get enrolled.
These two programs are signs of a changing society, with time the snake charmers charm shall remain but without causing any harm to the snakes! We surely hope that.