River Whanganui in New Zealand now treated as human
In a very welcome move, the New Zealand government has decided to accord the Whanganui legal status. New Zealand’s third largest river will now have the same status as a human being for which, the Maori people, the original inhabitants (immigrants) of New Zealand have been fighting for more than a century now.
The Ruling and the Background
*Chris Finlayson, the minister for the treaty of Waitangi negotiations, said the decision brought the longest-running litigation in New Zealand’s history to an end. *“…… will have its own legal identity with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person,” said Finlayson in a statement.
The river is part of indigenous people’s lives and folklore. The Maori people believe the river is their ancestor. * Hundreds of tribal representatives wept with joy when their bid to have their kin awarded legal status as a living entity was passed into law. *The new status of the river means if someone abused or harmed it, the law now sees no differentiation between harming the tribe or harming the river because they are one and the same.
The land which worships trees and rocks
India and its long tradition of respect for all things animate and inanimate will surely not find the above ruling strange. When the demon King Hiranyakashupu asks his spiritual son, Prahalad, “Where is your God?”, Prahad replies, “God is everywhere even in the inanimate pillar”.
Most villages in India worship Trees. In many places, stones and rocks represent some spiritual force. Animals and birds are considered as vehicles or representatives of spiritual/ godly powers.
….and Rivers Divine
The story of the Heavenly Ganga and how it was brought to the Earth by one of Lord Ram’s (of the Ramayana) ancestors is part of every grandmother’s chest of stories. The Ganga is Goddess to millions of Indians. Taken scientifically and practically, the pure Ganga in its upper stages (unpolluted) has medicinal properties as well. So much was the power the Ganges water was invested with, that, most Hindu households across the country store this water for multiple uses.
Namami Gange fine. Some legislation?
But we also see degradation of many of India’s rivers along with other eco-systems. The Namami Gange project has been on for some time now. But with little to show on the ground and the river.
The governments (Centre and state of Uttar Pradesh) now have the opportunity to ensure causes of the common man’s (and national) interest see progress. Maybe India can also look at legislation as the New Zealand one. Even Goddesses can do with some legal help, not just ancestors.