Flowers and happy faces, drums and dancing… The video is one of celebration. As Vimalakka sings, “Bathukamma vo, Bathukamma vo,” the smiles on the faces of the young girls and women who dance show that this is a festival that everyone is enjoying. However, the song is not just a celebration – it’s also a protest. A protest to save the Nallamala forest area from plans for uranium mining.
The song, written by popular Leftist writer Mitra and sung by revolutionary singer Vimalakka of Arunodaya Cultural Federation (ACF) as part of 'Bahujana Bathukamma', is creating ripples on social media, in the wake of the ongoing anti-uranium mining struggle in Telangana's Nallamala forest. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has granted an 'in-principle' approval for survey and exploration of uranium over 83 square km of forest land, but environmentalists, activists and residents say that the proposed operations will not only harm flora and fauna of the Nallamala, but also displace the Chenchu tribals, who are considered a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG).
Addressing these issues, the five-minute song sung by Vimalakka highlights the beauty and bio-diversity of Nallamala and the Chenchu adivasi lifestyle. The song also goes on to explain the relationship of humans with flowers and celebration of life in the form of Bathukamma. Ever since the formation of Telangana state in 2014, Bathukamma is being celebrated as the state festival. As part of the festivities, women sing and dance around specially arranged flowers. “Nallamala Tangedu pulo bhagya nivo Bathukamma vo! Adivitalli paravashinche atalammavo, nemali natyanivo, dunkutunna jalapatam sangitamo samara nadamo! Uranium tavvutanante oppanantimo, pratigatana tappadantimo!” she sings. Meaning, “Oh mother of life, the gift of Nallamala’s Tangedu flower.. who cheers with ecstasy for the peacock's dance, the music of waterfalls, and the songs of resistance. We don't agree for Uranium mining… We say, resistance is inevitable.”
"You are the power that douses the flames of the forest, oh Bahujana Bathukamma...We will not let indigenous Chenchus be ruined. We will become the thunder of the flowers," the song says, vowing to fight against exploitation, while expressing concern that the forest ecosystem is under threat.
Speaking to TNM, Vimalakka says that the song is part of the 'Save Nallamala campaign' by 'Bahujana Bathukamma Nirvahana Committee' comprised of around 30 civil society organisations.
Vimalakka says, “The tangedu flowers which are used in Bathukamma, is born in Nallamala. From there, it spread across other parts of the state. Now with the uranium mining proposal, all this flora-fauna is under threat."
"Though several environmental experts and scientists have stated that uranium mining would threaten the forest ecosystems and its dependents and river Krishna, the ruling government is firm on going ahead. We decided to fight against it with the Bahujana Bathukamma,” she adds.
When asked about the usage of metaphors that are related to nature in the song, Vimalakka says, "Uranium mining will threaten the very existence of human life, of which Batukamma is part. That is why we have made this song in the name of Nallamala-Bahujana Bathukamma."
Released at a time when local residents and rights groups are protesting against the proposed mining project, the song has gone viral. Earlier this month, Telangana Assembly has passed a unanimous resolution against Uranium mining in the Nallamala forests.