Jharkhand – a relatively younger state of India, is known not just for its greenery but also for the people who have made it proud. Being an inspiration for the younger generation, showing a beam of light, even in the darkest of time, are true leaders who’ve fought their way and showed their might to the world. Jharkhand is proud to have such people, especially women who have stood their grounds and showed their potential when the society urges them to. Such is the story of Jamuna Tudu – the Lady Tarzan of Jharkhand.
Jamuna Tudu’s Early Life
Jamuna Tudu was born to a farmer of Jharkhand and was raised in Odisha’s Rairangpur town. Her upbringing paved her way to what she’s now – an environmentalist and activist. She grew up alongside her siblings around greenery and lush forests. While young, she used to help her father in farming, carrying saplings to his fields.
When she was 18, she was married off to a contractor named Mansingh Tudu. Mansingh takes contracts to build houses near his village Maturkham. The day after her wedding Jamuna was shown around the house. Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law even showed her the forest just outside their house, through their back door. She was shocked to see a forest full of tree stumps, she told the Hindu Business Line. Her husband’s village which was once known for teak and sal trees was totally barren now, a local timber smuggling mafia behind it all. She was even told that the villagers were even threatened by the mafia into keeping mum. Tudu was highly moved by this incident, back in 1998.
Tudu’s Efforts to Save the Forest
After this incident, Tudu decided to take action against the timber mafia and gathered all Adivasi women of Maturkham to form a Van Suraksha Samiti. The initial steps weren’t easy for her as most women there had never really ever stood for themselves before. Jamuna Tudu, then, became an inspiration for them, as more and more women began to join her for the cause to save mother nature.
Jamuna Tudu and 32 other women then decided to take on timber mafia by themselves and tried to scare away the intruders. This take of theirs’ continued for a year as they decided to stay strong with sticks, spades, bows and arrows. The timber mafias were easily scared off initially but soon the women realised that this was a mixed nexus of the mafias, some forest officials, and even the local policemen. This was a major challenge ahead for Tudu. Moreover, the village of Maturkham was a Naxal belt and she feared that their activities might cause suspicion. She was eventually joined by other women and they got an FIR registered and soon action was taken.
Though Jamuna and her group were successful, nothing comes free. She told the Hindu Business Line that back in 2008, she and her husband were even attacked with stones. Her husband Mansingh suffered a head injury. This incident had a deep impact on Tudu and she decided not to be fearful ever again. Since then, Jamuna and her group of more than 30,000 women take care of the forests in 300 villages nearby. While they protect these forests, they also nurture them and often carry out afforestation activities.
Jamuna Tudu – from a local forest protector to a Padma Shri winner
Jamuna Tudu’s story was followed widely across the media and her contribution won her many awards and recognition. She is popularly called the ‘Lady Tarzan of Jharkhand’ now. She was awarded the Godfrey Phillips Bravery Award 2014 for her showing bravery and taking on timber mafia in the state of Jharkhand.
In 2019, Jamuna Tudu was awarded the Padma Shri Award – the fourth highest civilian award of India by President Ram Nath Kovind.
Jamuna Tudu’s story is highly inspiring for all and gives us all a light of hope even in the darkest of time, and the strength to keep moving in life. Not only is her story inspiration for all women of India but also inspires us to connect with nature, giving it back – everything it has given us!