Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Last Of The Mogru Nomadic Clan (a documentary review)

The tourism boom in Mogru town of Tso Ngon region (Ch: Qinghai) has brought in new asphalt laden roads for the nomads so that they could ride faster on their horses to the nearest town! It even brought new faces from far across the mainland China along with their waste to litter at this holy lake of Tso Ngon. If not for these development activities that attracts regular visitors and tourists, the Mogru clans cannot afford in their natural lifetime to visit mainland China to meet and see those peoples wearing flashy clothes with headphones.

Watch the documentary from this link here

Tourism industry has literally uprooted the once happy nomadic clan of Mogru in Tso Ngon region (Ch: Qinghai). The whole nomadic community (from elders to infant) is shown as if they are rehearsing everyday for a never ending play. A women, after finishing her daily chores hurried back to dress her five year old daughter in traditional costumes, so that she can earn few extra money from the tourists, after posing a photo with them. It is true that, at her age, this young girl should be attending school rather than running behind tourist. But the ground reality tells another story; her daily earnings meant more to support her family than what she could perhaps learn from school. Her family is neither a herder nor an urban dweller with a day job. And from that little earning, almost half of the amount goes to the tourism office for letting her enter the barricade that separates the tourists from the local residents. In other words she was taxed for being herself truly in front of the camera!

Some local elders have seen everything from day one (back in early 50's), how the first Han migrants have faced hardships of mere surviving on these alpine pastures by robbing bird nests. Later after few years, the red army poured in with heavy artillery turning everything upside down and bulldozing all the prairies to make way for a secret military experimental base.

The locals, even though have official documents issued by the provincial authority guaranteeing their right to own this holy place but their out pouring grievances against the tourism agency often put them behind bars. The little money they have earned by selling their ancestral herds have been invested in erecting a concrete three storey building for the community, but the construction was judged illegal, now they have nothing left, no herds, no money, except for the half finished three storey building, which too will be bulldozed in due time. They are now living in their worst nightmares and don't see any way out of it.

For the visitors and tourists (mostly from the mainland China) this place provides everything that one's needs to show back home, from a fancy Yak ride at the lake shore to postcard pictures taken with nomads in their traditional costumes. Do they (the tourists) know that these displaced nomads have no other sources of income, they neither own any of the road side shops nor do they get any incentives from the tourism agency, instead they have to pay back to the provincial authority to renew their stay order on their own ancestral grounds! 

As per orders given from higher authority, the local administration of Tso Ngon displaced twenty five family members of Mogru town from to make way for development projects to attract more tourists. An order has been issued for another sixty five nomad families to abandon their pastures latest by March 2012. The local residents tried their best to put forward their concerns and grievances in various offices. They even traveled as far as Beijing to meet higher authorities but all in vain. The local authority have even declared (in future) to acquire all the lands around Tso Ngon (Kokonor lake), undoubtedly to build new tourist centers and still more barricades that will prevent the local residents to pay their homage to the holy lake.

Even under such tense state of mind and emotions, the local residents of Mogru town still enjoy the yearly horse race as if nothing has ever changed over the years. May be, it is the only moment when they truly feel they are more connected to their culture, their pastures and to their ancestors. Nobody can read their minds, except for the momentary smiles that are captured in this one hour documentary.

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