Chipko Andolan is basically a movement started in the 1970s by the people of Uttarakhand for the protection of forests. In this, people embraced the trees so that no one could cut them. This embrace became a symbol of the love between real nature and man and was given the name of “Chipko”.
There is an ecological and economic background behind the Chipko movement. The land in which this movement was destroyed had experienced severe floods in 1970. Due to this flood, the area up to 400 km away was destroyed and five extended bridges, thousands of cattle, lakhs of rupees of wood and fuel were destroyed. The silt that accompanied the floodwaters was so great that it blocked an area of up to 10 km of the 350 km long Upper Ganga Canal, depriving 8.5 lakh acres of land for irrigation and stalling the generation of 48 MW of electricity. . The tragedy of Alaknada had left an indelible mark on the minds of the villagers and they knew the important role of forests in the lives of the people. The Chipko movement can also be traced to the provisions of the British Forest Act under which the Pahari community was denied community use of forests even for their daily needs.
The forest rules laws of independent India have also followed the colonial tradition. In 1962, some hill youths had formed Dashauli Gram Swarajya Sangh at Gopeshwar, the headquarters of Chamoli district, with the aim of providing respectable employment through coven-estate to the people living near the forests. The Forest Department of Uttar Pradesh had refused to give Angu trees to the woodworking center of the institution for the year 1972-73. Earlier these trees used to meet the villagers living nearby. The villagers used to make farming tools according to their needs from this light but very strong wood. This wood was very important for the villages. In hilly farming, the bull’s yoke has been made only from this wood, in the cold weather in the hills and in the hard rocky ground, the qualities of the organ come true. Due to its lightness, the bull does not get tired. According to the weather, this wood is neither cold nor hot, so it never cracks and due to its strength, it lasts for many years.
Meanwhile, it was learned that the Forest Department has given permission to the Symonds Company of Allahabad, which manufactures sports goods, to cut grapes from a forest named Mandal, one kilometer from Gopeshwar. The trees that the villagers living right next to the forests could not even touch were now allowed to be cut and taken away by a company from Allahabad. The people of the village or the Dashauli Gram Swarajya Sangh had no objection if the goods of games like tennis, badminton should be made from Angoo in the field companies. All they wanted was only that the needs of the farm should be met first and then the sports. Along with this legitimate demand, there was also a small demand for them. Forest dwellers must get some kind of employment from the forest wealth so that their love for the protection of forests can remain intact.
The core of the Chipko movement was the village of Reni (District Chamoli) which is situated at the confluence of Rishiganga and Vishnuganga, about 22 km from Joshimath on the Indo-Tibetan border. The Forest Department had given 2451 trees of grapes of this area on contract to the Symonds Company. As soon as the news of this was received, a meeting was held on 14th February 1974 in Netattav of Chandi Prasad Bhatt, in which people were warned that if trees were felled, our existence would be in danger. These trees not only fulfill our needs of fodder, fuel, and herbs but also prevent soil erosion.
After this meeting, on March 15, the villagers took out a procession in protest against the deforestation of the Reni forest. A similar procession was also taken out by the students on 24 March. Just when the movement started gaining momentum, the government announced that the people whose farms were acquired for the army in Chamoli should take away their compensation. The men of the village went to Chamoli to get compensation. On the other hand, the government called the agitators to the district headquarters, Gopeshwar, for talks. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the contractors and forest officials entered the forest. Now only women were left in the village. But he did not lose his courage. Without caring about their lives, 27 women started Chipko-aAndolanunder the leadership of Mrs. Gouradevi. Thus the foundation of the first environmental movement of independent India was laid on 26 March 1974.
Demand for Chipko Movement
The demands of the Chipko movement were economic at the beginning, such as fixation of minimum wages for forest workers by abolishing the contractual practice of exploiting forests and forest dwellers, new forest settlement, and supply of raw materials at subsidized prices to local small industries. Gradually, the Chipko movement became a powerful mass movement of sustainable economy-ecology against the traditional short-lived destructive economy. Now the main demand of the movement was – the main produce of the Himalayan forests is water for the nation, and the task is to make soil, improve and maintain it. Therefore, the cutting of currently standing green trees should be postponed till that time (10 to 25 years) till at least 60 percent area in the Himalayas is covered by trees as per the declared objectives of the National Forest Policy. Such trees, which conserve soil and water, should be planted on a war footing so that people can become self-sufficient in the essential needs of food, clothes, etc.
After getting the news of the chipko in Reni, from the next day onwards, all the men from more than a dozen nearby villages started reaching there in large numbers. Now it has become a mass movement. One by one the villages began to look after the trees. Various methods were used to convey the message of Chipko to the remote villages, the main ones being padayatra, folk songs, and stories, etc. Folk singers sang exciting songs. He gave the slogans of the short-lived economy of deforestation and employment from forest-based industries.
“What are the favors of the forest, Lisa, wood, and business”
a completely different permanent
Announced this mantra of the economy-
“What are the blessings of the forest, soil, water, and wind.
Soil, water, and wind are the basis of survival.
The forest movement gained momentum as soon as the deforestation at Gopeshwar was successfully stopped. A padyatra was organized in Chamoli district under the leadership of Sulurlal Bahuguna. The movement quickly spread first to Uttarkashi and then to the entire hilly region.
The deep pain of these awakened mountain dwellers also affected the mind and hearts of the pedestrians, scientists, and politicians. On 9 May 1974, the Government of Uttar Pradesh announced the formation of a high-level committee to consider the demands of the Chipko movement. Its president was Shri Virendra Kumar, a botanist from Delhi University. After a thorough investigation, the committee found that the demands of the villagers and the Chipko movement activists were correct. In October 1976, it also recommended that commercial deforestation be banned for 10 years in an area of 1,200 square kilometers. Along with this, the committee also suggested that afforestation work should be started on a war footing in the important parts of this area. The Uttar Pradesh government accepted these suggestions. Due to the implementation of this ban, the deforestation plan of 13,371 hectares was withdrawn. This was a great victory of the Chipko movement.
The Chipko movement was successful in many respects. It was successful in banning the felling of trees in Uttar Pradesh at an altitude of more than 1000 meters, clearing forests in the Western Ghats and Vindhyas. At the same time, it has been successful in creating pressure for a National Forest Policy, which will be more sensitive to the needs of the people and the development of the country. In the words of Ramachandra Guha, Chipko represents the prevalence of conflicts with natural resources. It provided a solution to a national dispute. The dispute was as to who would protect the Himalayan forests the most – the local community, the state government, or the private capitalists. There was also the issue of which trees to plant – coniferous trees, broad-leafed trees, or exotic trees and then the question arose as to what were the original products of the forests – timber for industries, bio-wealth for the village people, or whole. Soil, water, and clean air are needed by the community. Therefore, this territorial dispute took a national form in the direction of determining the forest policy for the whole country.
Chipco has presented an alternative to the modern model of development. This was the result of the initiative of the general public. This movement was also a form of Gandhian struggle because it also opposed the unjust, oppressive regime which was exploiting it in the name of environmental protection. The real leadership of this movement also came from Gandhian activists mainly Chandiprasad Bhatt and Sunder Lal Bahugudha, whose techniques were also inspired by Gandhi’s satyagraha. In the words of Vandana Siva and Jayant Vandopadhyay “Historically, philosophically and organizationally, the Chipko movement was an extension of the traditional Gandhian satyagraha”.
Role of women in Chipko movement
The Chipko movement is often referred to as a women’s movement because most of its activists were women and at the same time this movement was based on feminist qualities. On March 26, 1974, when the contractors came to Reni village to cut trees, the men were not at home. Under the leadership of Gaura Devi, the women drove the contractors who came with axes from the forest saying that this forest is our maternal uncle. We won’t let it cut. Maika is a happy place for women where they find shelter in times of crisis. In fact, hill women and forests are inextricably linked. Due to the migration of men for employment due to the flowing away of the fertile soil of the mountains, the entire burden of the household falls on the women. Their main work apart from farming is to provide grass, fodder, fuel for cooking and water for the animals. They are directly related to forests. The policy of commercial exploitation of forests has led to the destruction of broad-leaved trees that provide grass and fodder, and the coniferous trees of pine, deodar, making the soil dry. Due to the cutting of trees due to the expansion of motor roads, there is a shortage of fuel for the kitchen. The burden of all this falls on the women only. Therefore, who can do anything other than the women who are directly associated with the forests to stop this destruction. They know that men have to go to the cities for employment due to the soil being washed away and the land becoming infertile. If the soil will stop and be formed, then the basis of agriculture will be strong. Men will stay at home. There is only one solution for this – to protect green trees because trees are the factory of making soil and giving water.
After Reni (in the same order as Chipko) on February 1, 1978, a contingent of 50 armed police personnel reached the forests of Advani village to protect the axes hired by the forest officials and contractors. There the women clung to the trees saying, “No tree, we will cut”. No one had an answer to this non-violent resistance. These women again opposed the auction of forests to be held in Narendra Nagar on February 9, 1978, under the strong guard of the armed police. They were arrested and put in jail.
On December 25, 1978, a mass movement began to stop the felling of about 2500 trees in the goods train area, in which thousands of women participated and thwarted all attempts to cut trees. In this forest, on January 9, 1978, Sulurlal Bahuguna observed a fast for 13 days. As a result, the government immediately stopped deforestation at three places and invited them to discuss the question of declaring the Himalayan forests as protected forests. Till a decision is taken in this regard, it has been announced to stop the auction, felling, and printing of green trees in the Garhwal and Kumaun divisions.
During the Chipko movement, women also demanded their participation in the management of forests. He argued that it is the woman who collects the fuel, fodder, water, etc. For him, the question of the forest is the question of his life and death. Therefore, his opinion should be included in any decision related to forests. The Chipko movement inspired Vandana Shiva for a new theory of development – ‘Environmental Feminism’, which depicts the unbreakable relationship between the environment and women.
Thus we can see how active women have been in raising their voice against the indiscriminate deforestation of forests. Chipko gave the hill women, who were always confined within the four walls of the house, to come out and give an opportunity to protest and express themselves among the people. It also showed how women relate to trees and plants and how their sufferings are compounded by the destruction of the environment. Therefore, Chipko is not only an environmental movement, but it is also a movement for the expression of the feelings and pains of the hill women.