Encroachments threaten wildlife, natural resources of Tatamari in Keshkal.

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CHHATTISGARH, KONDAGAON: The efforts to develop Tatamari of Keshkal as a tourism centre is going on. Regular sightings of wild animals such as rabbits, pheasants, Cheetal/Sambhar, Hyena and several others herald a bright future from the perspective of tourism, but the growing encroachments are a big threat to all of them.

A senior journalist from Keshkal, Krishendutt Upadhyay told that demand for developing Tatamari as a tourism centre is a long-standing one. However, some are trying to encroach up on the Tatamari land by gradually increasing human settlements on the pretext of building religious places.

As a matter of fact, several religious places and ancient archaeological historical religious centres are located inside forests, where people have immense faith in entire Bastar division, but nowhere have the places of worshipping of main gods/goddesses and other deities extended to the surrounding forests region.

There is a temple of Maa Telinsatti in Keshkal, temple of Maa  Bhangaram Devi atop the valley and an ancient Shivlinga at Gadhanaura, where people are worshipping since ancient times, but no one encroached up on the surrounding forests.

Earlier, the local elders, village heads or even priests were unaware about the presence of Maa Laxmi Shaktipeeth at Tatamari. All this changed, when a clerk at Block Education Office, Thakur Babu one day learned about the Shaktipeeth. Great devotee and learned priest Thakur Babu were the first to discover the Shaktipeeth just like he discovered many other such places. Once the secret was out in open, people began performing religious rituals and events here.

Once a desolated and hard-to-reach place, very few people actually used to go there, only once in a while to pick some local fruits like Tendu or Kurru. But, once Thakur Babu discovered the spot, more and more people began visiting the spot and performing religious rituals.

The idea of developing Tatamari as a tourism centre was first conceived by erstwhile Janpad member Krishendutt Upadhyay and Janpad vice President Sagir Ahmed Qureshi, who had tabled their idea to the then North Bastar Divisional Forest Officer Nandi and showed him the place. But, the DFO didn’t take the suggestion seriously.

The relentless efforts of Upadhyay and Ahmed finally bore fruits when Katakwar became the DFO and he asked for a proposal to develop Tatamari as a tourism centre. DFO Katakwar surveyed the area and sent a proposal for the tourism centre to the Forest Department.

In the meanwhile, faithful devotees made the road to Tatamari a bit more accessible. Religious faith and natural beauty contributed to the fame of Tatamari and it slowly carved a niche for itself in tourist places of Bastar.

Tatamari has immense potential for tourism if activities like paragliding-Para-surfing and other adventure games like tracking. It could also be developed as a shelter for wild animals/birds and a training centre for tourism awareness. Efforts are going on the direction, but it requires to keep Tatamari safe from encroachments.

Unfortunately, in the past few days, unnecessary mayhem has been created in the name of religious faith and encroachers are trying to justify the expansionism by citing nonsensical reasons and absurd logic. Since Tatamari is a forested area, no non-forestry construction or encroachment can happen at Tatamari without the permission of Forest Department, still, the erstwhile forest officials didn’t create any legal impediment in the construction a small temple and Jyoti Kalash room enough for performing Puja by respecting the faith of people.  

Even today, no forest officer obstruct religious activity. But, as the Forest Officers objected to the expansionism over a large land, encroachers are creating unnecessary fuss by alleging of hurting religious sentiments. Even as a blame game is going on, politicians are also trying to dip their toes into the fray. Elders and head of village Surdonger, which adjoins the Tatamari, also accept that though the Puja should be allowed, there shouldn’t be any expansion in the forest area.

As the wild animals routinely move in and around Tatamari, permanent settlement of people and keeping dogs wouldn’t be appropriate. Forest Department has to keep Tatamari safe and work for wildlife conservation and simultaneously respect the faith of people while devotees and priest also need to establish coordination with the Department.

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