OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Monday , October 11 , 2010
Lucknow, Oct. 10: Dudhwa National Park is set to be renamed Ambedkar National Park by the Mayavati government, sparking outrage among wildlife enthusiasts who had wanted it to be named after legendary tiger conservationist Billy Arjan Singh.
“The state wildlife department has theoretically accepted a proposal to name it after Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar in the last meeting of the wildlife board,” a senior officer of the department said.
The park is spread over 680sqkm with a buffer area of almost 190sqkm in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh. It is located in Lakhimpur Kheri district, 175km north of Lucknow.
Its present name might have come either from the word dudh — a huge milk market operated in the neighbourhood in the early 1920s — or the word dudhi — a plant that grows along with sal trees in the area. The Tharu tribals who reside in some parts of the forest have traditionally used the dudhi plant as medicine for fever.
“I believe Dudhwa might have originated from the dudhi plant which was a medicinal plant to the Tharu tribes,” said P.P. Singh, former director of the park.
The name change was proposed because members of the wildlife board argued that the “present name, deriving from a neighbourhood that used to be a huge wholesale milk market, does not go well with its national and international reputation as a forest reserve”.
“By associating it with Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution, the state government wants to give it its proper status and at the same time pay a tribute to Dr Ambedkar,” the wildlife department officer said.
But nature lovers are asking why the park must be named after the Dalit icon who has never been associated with wildlife conservation.
“Ambedkar, a great leader who we all respect, need not be dragged to name a wildlife zone. Without Billy Arjan Singh, the park would never have been born. Politics has weighed heavily for this decision,” said S.C. Mishra, a former wildlife warden in Uttar Pradesh.
V.P. Singh, chief of the wildlife protection group Terai Nature Conservation Society and a member of the state wildlife board, said he had said at a board meeting two weeks ago that the park should be named after Billy. “I am shocked that this is going to be named after Ambedkar as the state government has already named one park at Pratapgarh after him,” he said.